Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tales from the commute

There were two seriously treacherous stretches on the ride home tonight!

One was heading west on 33rd, and the other was heading west through City Park. Both bits were buried in icy, mushy slosh. I was sliding and skidding and wobbling and teetering and tottering.

Didn't fall though.

I had two encounters in City Park. One was an older fella who saw me coming, grinned, and waved. I smiled and said, "Hi!" and he said, in a sing-song voice that was a dead ringer for Goofy, "Hi, Brian!"

The other encounter was a couple walking towards me. The lady said as I passed, with concern in her voice, "Skinny tires!"

The Pete Seeger lookin' fella said, "Brave man!"


So I've experienced this thing a couple times during my commute.

Sometimes, you accidentally lean into a bit of ice, and you can feel your traction slipping. And so if you don't want to develop an all out skid-n-crash, you can't move. So you don't brake and you don't pedal, and you can't lean out of the ice. So you just kind of sail along for a few seconds in helpless limbo, hoping that if you just coast for a second, you'll get your traction back before the ice pulls you the rest of the way in.

That's scary.

Cold Weather Tips

Here are some friggin tips!

  • Your cheapo hardware store safety glasses are fogging up? Drill some small holes around the edges of the lens. They'll fog less, and defog more quickly.

  • Colder this evening leaving work than you thought it would be? Stuff your shoes and gloves with paper towels from the break room!

  • If your hands are freezing from too much air resistance, tie your scarf across your handlebars to shield them a little bit.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Moment of Zen: My twin

Guy caught up with me ascending a hill. Here are the things he had that are similar to the things I had:

+ Beard and safety glasses
+ Reflective jacket and messenger bag
+ Blinky lights and fenders

We chatted at stop lights about the weather. He took off and shouted, "Be safe!"

My doppelganger wishes for my safety.

Moment of Zen: Cold Hands

Approaching the same intersection, me from the south, he from the east, both sitting straight up, me with my hands in my armpits, he with his in his coat pockets.

We each smile a half smile and nod at each other.

Monday, December 8, 2008

snowy snowy snowy

I had planned on taking the bus home this evening since it had been snowing the whole blasted afternoon, but I got cold waiting at the bus stop with my bike, so I decided to pedal along the route to warm up, thinking a bus would soon catch up to me.

But no! I rode the whole way home!

At the 30th & Downing RTD station, I read the bus schedule and learned that the next bus was 25 minutes away. Decided to press on.

Going down California, around 29th, it was pretty awesome to see Downtown just slow fade in, and emerge out of the snow.

Tried to get on the Mall Bus at the 16th Street Mall, but the driver said over the speakers, "No bikes on the bus!" and opened the doors again for me to get back off.

I camped out in the elevator at the end of 16th street for a while to let my hands warm up.

But I made it all the way back. It was snowing, but it wasn't devilishly cold, or icy.

Although, once home, I did strip down and dive under the bed sheets the second I got in the door.

the velosophy of fixies

The other day I was riding through town, and I noticed that I was making unusually heavy use of both my shifters and my brakes. I thought to myself, "Man, I don't drive my car like this. Why am I biking like this? I should relax."

And so I did. I settled into a generally managable gear and remained there for most of the remainder of the ride. I paid attention to the lights, planned ahead, adjusted my pace where neccessary, and generally used my brakes less.

And I found myself thoroughly enjoying my ride.

This lead me to a large insight, similar to the one I had when I discovered that pedaling hard and fast the whole way to work got me there sweaty, and only about four minutes earlier than pedaling at a slower, more reasonable, get-to-work-without-getting-all-sweaty pace.

My insights into what is for "better riding" seem to be leading me towards riding slower and smarter. Or, to borrow from Pirsig, when focusing on making Good Time, to focus on the good, and not time.

So my rules for good riding seem to be this.

1. Shift less.

2. Brake less.

My original insight into slowing down and not trying to sprint to your destination doesn't have to be explicitely mentioned, because you'll have to anyway while observing these rules. Observing these rules allowed me to make my "No Foot Down" ride Saturday morning.

So if shifting less and braking less makes for a better ride, then is it true that, once you're ready for it, single-speed, fixed-gear bikes, bynot allowingfor shifting or, optionally, braking,make for the best rides?

I have traditionally balked at the thought of riding a fixie, but am now considering it. There is, I admit, something very appealing about a bicycle stripped down to it's most basic and pure form. I get that.

I couldn't be convinced to give up my Schwinn for commuting and for long rides, but I believe I could be convinced to take up a fixie for joy-rides around town.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Epic Ride

Legendary Epic Ride! Of the No-Foot-Down variety: didn't have to stop once. Not for any traffic, not at any intersection. Gnarly. That was the first time I've been able to do that. Eight miles of straight trucking.
It's easiest to do that Saturday mornings because

  1. nobody's on the roads, and

  2. on my eastbound (morning) path, I don't have to cross Downing, making Federal and Colorado the only major intersections I have to contend with.

It was a close call at Colorado because that light is so awful. I had to ride up to the crosswalk button, mash it in passing, and then do loops in the 7-11 parking lot till I saw the light start to change. Then I was like, "NOW! GO! GO! GO!" (you know, to myself) and I made it.