Thursday, December 20, 2007

Trial and Error

I've been thinking the last few days about what I've learned since I started commuting back in March. I started with cotton long underwear tops and bottoms, a t-shirt, my old Columbia shell and various pairs of windbreaker pants. When it was cold I would freeze and sweat super bad. My jacket would be soaked and if it rained I either was soaked or put on my full pvc rain gear which did not breath at all. I wore tennis shoes and carried my gear in a backpack.

I believe I've come a long way since then. I got to where I am today through trial and error. I would know I was too hot but didn't know what to do about it. I would buy this and that and try and see what worked better then others. I've found that some stuff you can buy on the cheap, like Champion C9 shirts from Target- they are super cheap and work very well. I've also found that some items you really do get what you paid for like my Cannondale Morphis Shell jacket with zip off sleeves. I love that thing!

This brings me to today. I tend to be impatient. I don't like to waste time so when I found it takes me about 20 minutes to get packed and changed to come home from work I decided it was time to look for something to speed up my routine.

Here's why it took a while: I would have to change from my work cloths- put on my wool base layer, then my boot liner, then my Columbia omni-tech snow pants shell, then put the gaiter of the shell pants over the boot, then put on the boot, then bla-bla-bla... Anyhow, it annoyed me each time I got dressed. I figured I'd look for some nice nordic ski pants that would work well for biking so I would theoretically only have one layer.

After reading on some different types, I set off to buy some Craft Storm Tights. I stopped by Continental Ski and Bike and they showed them to me along with the Toko Nordic Pants. They felt heavier and thicker and seemed would work better (and had a good recommendation from the staff). So I bought them.

I'll be trying them tomorrow. I'm a little apprehensive about them though. I'm used to my gore-tex like shell from Columbia, it keeps me very toasty and warm. I can always add my wools back under these pants (maybe, maybe not) but I'm always hot and sweaty in my shell so hopefully these pants will work to keep me just right on my ride.

So, like I said, it's all about trial and error. Some things work for one person and not another but in the end, if you don't try it, you'll never know. I'll let you know tomorrow how well they worked for me.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Busy busy busy

Aren't we all this time of year? I'm still not 100% done with the remod of two bedrooms in my house, adding insulation and tearing out plaster, replacing w/ sheetrock. Have had 2 holiday / Christmas parties, travel for family, travel for work, and a big injury to my foot have all kept me off of my bike for the last few days. I'll be working in Pequot Lakes again for two days; I'm trying to contain my excitement here... My foot, well, I stepped on a very pointy piece of metal and slashed the bottom of my foot. It's healing really fast and I could actually put weight on it today. I figure by Thursday (the next day I'll be able to ride) I'll be in good shape.
Another update- found my other Pro-Tec helmet liner... I knew buying a new one would help flush out the old one :o)
One last update. I bought a new SD card reader today (and it worked) so I can now download my latest photos- but a new problem arose, ran out of hard disk space. Time to buy an external drive with some raid so I can sleep at night with all the gigs and gigs of photos we have safely backed up and protected.

Anyhow, hope everyone has a wonderful week!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Why, why why LBS, why? or Have you seen my pro-tec helmet liner?

Ok, sorry for the dumb title but I'm pretty tired.
A few days ago I went to put on my gear and was missing my pro-tec helmet liner. I think I may have dropped it by the sculptures on the lakewalk or perhaps my one year old girl hid it on me like she hid the remote yesterday- I was not happy with her. :o) (JK)
So if you found a pro-tec helmet liner, it's probably mine...
On my way in this morning I stopped at the LBS and they were closed when their sign clearly stated they should have been open. I was not happy with them either. Not that I really needed it today, as the temps were pretty decent but still- I wanted to buy a new one so my old one would show up quicker.
On my way home tonight I kept having the skipping on the back in the high gears problem. I decided to get off my lazy butt and stop and look at the thing, as I thought, a link in the chain was not moving- must have gotten bent or something. In the lower gears in front and higher in back (smaller rings on both) the radius of the chain ring is such that the links have to bend more then on the larger rings and it causes it to skip (also when it runs through the derailleur). I need a new chain or something and on that note, I hate my chain tool- it's just a simple tool; takes the chain apart very nicely but it's a P.I.T.A. to get the pin back in while holding both ends, the tool, the pin, the beer, the cig, the... o wait- I don't drink or smoke, but still, it's a pain. I'm now on the hunt for a nice chain tool, one that will hold multiple links on each side so you don't have to hold them and one that will make it easy to put the pin it there... The chain on there now is some sort of put it together and push on your pedals and it snaps together- I guess that works but I still want a new tool. Maybe if my LBS is open tomorrow when I get there I'll see if they have something like that.

Maybe a new pro-tec helmet liner too.........

(Enough silly business for one night)


Friday, December 7, 2007

Under Pressure

On my way home Thursday I decided to try to ride the lakewalk which was a pretty bad idea. Earlier in the week I found out that some sections hadn't been plowed at all and I found out again that was still the case, but with the addition of about 6 more inches of snow. My typical commute in the summer was about 23 minutes, Thursday it took me 1 hour and I was working hard that whole time. From the lakewalk I took the sidewalk on London road until the stop light then road the shoulder. That worked out well because by that time I was pretty tired. I did manage to snap a few pictures but it was past 4 which means it was pretty much black outside :o) (turns out nothing in my house can read my new 2gb sd card- that really sucks)

Today I was thinking about how low I could go with the pressure of my Nokian Mount and Grounds. I checked their website and it says 58-65 (recommended / max) while Peter White's site says 45 is a good number- which makes sense for the typical surface the tire is intended for around here. But I was still wondering if I can go even lower when needed, say 20's or if that just wouldn't work. I think if I'm going to stick to the roads I might try to increase it towards the 60 mark, that way I should be able to get back up to a pretty good speed. I'll have to play around and, of course, keep safety as my main concern.

Anyhow, I've totally lost track trying to get my card readers to work :D
Have a good weekend.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Cycling Practical - bahhh

See- even the DTA thinks we're nuts aparently :o)

"DTA ends Bike and Bus program

The most successful season of the Duluth Transit Authority’s Bike and Bus program is coming to a close as the DTA removes the bike racks from the front of its buses this week in preparation for winter.

During its eight-month run this year, 16,050 bicycles were transported by the Bike and Bus service. A news release from the DTA says that’s 23 percent above last year’s record Bike and Bus participation.

The bike racks should reappear at the beginning of daylight savings time or as soon as it gets warm enough to make cycling practical."


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Are we safe? Please read and pass along.

Good evening everyone. I am writing to get some input from everyone out there who is still riding their bike.

I pose a simple question, do you feel safe riding in the winter? Personally, I feel like even in the perfect weather of summer that there is certain risk involved with riding in bike lanes or on roads without. Now that winter is here I feel I'm taking even more risk. Granted, I don't feel that it is so much risk that it's overly dangerous, but I do feel that I would like to try to do something to help all winter riders.

My plan:
I plan to contact local media to ask them to do a story on winter bicyclists. I want to point out the fact that even though it's winter and there is snow on the roads people still commute (and recreate) on bike- crazy as it seems. I've already contacted one tv station, WDIO, here in Duluth but have not heard back yet. I let them know I would post asking for some comments from those of us who are still out there.

The help I need:
I would like each of you who are still riding to do three things.

1) Answer these 4 questions
Where do you live (City / State)
Why do you ride (environmental, exercises, etc...)
Do you feel less safe in winter and if so, how much (percentage will do)
What do you feel is the biggest danger riding in the winter (bad drivers, worse conditions, etc)

2) Pass this post to everyone you know who is still biking and ask them to comment answering the above three questions.

The result:
I hope to take the results of the comments and come up with some info to pass along to the news agencies and hopefully make people open their eyes a bit more to see us out there.

If you have any comments you would like to add regarding personal stories of close calls or accidents involving you or someone you know, please add that into your comment.

Thanks everyone for helping with this. I would love to see hundreds of comments from people all over the U.S. so I can get some really good data on the number of people still riding their bikes!

(Image above from

Ride Safe!


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Did someone order more snow?

What a crazy few days of weather here in Duluth. First major snow December 1st, something like 14-16 inches and another 16 today in West Duluth. Funny thing is in Lakeside where I live we only had about 3 (only about 10 miles from West Duluth). I rode in this morning and the roads were ok. Word to the wise, watch the brown slop, it sucks you where ever it wants, be it into a snow bank or into the road- dangerous riding in that stuff. My morning commute went well. The Lakewalk was decently plowed except for a few places. On the boardwalk ramps behind the buildings on Superior St. I had to push some because it wasn't cleared there at all.
I didn't get to ride home; decided to buy a friends snowblower (attachment and riding mower for a price that couldn't be beat). We left work a bit early because of the snow. Neither one of us thought it would be bad but it took us 1 hour and 45 minutes to go about 3 miles. I've never seen a slower traffic jam in my life. The bridges were closed due to accidents, downtown was total deadlock. I wish I had just rode home, I would have enjoyed going faster then all the traffic. :o)
I don't get to ride in tomorrow either- left the bike at work. Tomorrow's ride home promises to be fun though.

Hope you stayed safe today!

Monday, December 3, 2007

How much?

I was contacted and asked to review some music by a band that travels by bike (extracycles) and so far, I like. But, one song (poem rather) really struck home and I thought I'd share while I'm still writing more on the band. It's called "How much" (Best when you listen and read- go to

How much

How much Do I care
About Peace?

Do I care
Enough about Peace
To ride
My bike to work
To not say, "It's too far"
And instead,
Just move closer?
And quit when I get there
Say Enough is Enough is
I will not work for the Man

Do I care
Enough About Peace
To ride and ride and ride
Cleaning my mind
Until I find
A real job
Working for everywhere, everyone, everything
Else in the world?

Not real like 9 to 5
Real like keeps me alive
Not real like Peter Jennings
Real like Amy Goodman
Not real like "Somebody's gotta do it"
Real like Earth Island Institute
Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty
International, Global Exchange
South Yuba River Citizens League
Real like if I don't do it
Who the hell will?
Do I care
Enough about Peace
To admit
That all inactions are actions
And all actions are votes
Not voting is

To vote
With my mouth
With my conscience and wallet
And my ballot while I'm at it?

To Buy
All organic
All the time, always
From sheets to roses to
Underwear to sprouts?

To cause
A commotion at Safeway, say
Let me know when you make the transition
And I might reconsider my decision
To never shop here again

To digup
My chemically dependent
Heavy drinking lawn and
Replace it for good
With a permaculture garden
To share
With my neighborhood

To ship
Forty pounds of corn
And 5000 gallons of water
To my refugee pen pal in Rwanda
Every day for a year
Before eating one more mouthful of

To build my house out of straw
Make it small
Fill it with compact florescents
Superinsulate the water heater
Make certain
Every splinter of wood is
J. Butterfly Certified?

And once I've built it
To stay home
To not fly
To forsake air travel
And its suicidal tendency
To warm
Up the world, its
Insatiable greed
For being there and
Here, on the very same day
And Fuck those little plastic cups

To let
My fingers
Do the walking
Right out the door of
The businessasusual yellowpages
And into the National Green Pages
Every time the American in me
Can no longer resist
The urge
To consume Do I care
Enough about Peace
To de-cumulate?
To sell half,
Of my shit,
Then give half of what's left away
Today? Except for the television
Much like a landmine
Must be destroyed
Before maiming the mind
Of one more little boy

To have
Just one child

To adopt
Between one and eighty eight
And to meditate
On the origins of
Impatience, anger and hate
So that I may never yell
At any of them
Or anyone else I love
Or don't yet love

To spend
As much time with them
As I do sending
Interoffice email
At my job
Real, or not

To remember
That the truth has been found
I can't buy from Exxon
Without Prince William Sound
I can't buy from Chevron
Without hired helicopters
Gunning N'goni to the ground
Not from Shell and that little thing
With Ken Saro Wiwa
Not from the Unocals
And their Ivy League Pals
Shilling on Niteline
Promoting the new
Uzbeki, Afghani,
Osama bin Pipeline

And therefore,
To commit
To a reduction
In internal combustion?

To drink
And drink and drink
Burning gasoline
Until I feel fiery compassion
For the eternal sufferers of my
Infernal dedication
To internal combustion?
Infernal internal eternal

To admit
I'm addicted
To my automobile
My own two little
Axles of Evil?

I keep finding myself
Back at the pump
With every finger
On the trigger

And I know in that moment that
They is me
I am them
Pushed and sucked and pumped
Through a dirty oil

Do I care
Enough about Peace
To sell
My car?

To hitchhike
But refuse to ride
In any SUV-8 commuter?
Range Rover, Range Rover
Send our black soldiers
Right over
Jesus Chrysler, Honda Krishna

I keep finding myself
Back at the outlet
Ready to plug something else in
Or check something else out

Do I care
Enough about Peace
To clothes
The Gap or at least
Stand in front of The Gap
With a picket?

To never
Set foot in
Wal-mart K-mart Ware-mart
Bi-mart Petsmart Star-mart or
Star-bucks again?
How 'bout Home Depot?

To stop
Buying clothes made of oil
Sewn by 8-year-olds in dark factories on
The other side of the planet
Sold in stores built on wetlands
Farmlands, once quiet lands
So-far-from-where-you-live lands
So hemmed in by asphalt big
Trucks broken glass and
Mufflers so underserved
By public transportation that
Driving there seems like the
Only reasonable way
To get there
But which are too cheap
To pass up?

Do I care enough
About Peace
To stop
Buying those clothes
To shop instead at thrift stores
To buy organic cotton hemp recycled
Clothes made by people I know who
Live on my street?

To acknowledge
That peace is, redwood trees standing
Peace is, worldwide family planning
Peace is, organic peach canning
Peace is, Maya Angelou in the Oval Office
Sitting at the big desk
Peace is, live music in my kitchen
Peace is, your grandma riding her bike to
The bus to the farmers market
Peace is, a living wage for the
Columbian peasant who grew
My cup
Of Coffee
Peace is, the collective self-esteem of all
The world's kids

But I've got to wondering
If you gathered all the ten-year-olds in
China, America, Afganistan, Nigeria
And Mexico City
Into one giant circle
And gathered all their self-esteem
And put it in a laser beam
Of light
And shot it into the Night
Would it make it to the Lincoln Bedroom
Would it make it
To the Moon?

Do I care
Enough about Peace
To cutup
My Discover Card and
Send it back to the bankers
Who are using my money
To erect the 3 gorges dam
To displace a million people
Brown, voiceless people
To drown the great Yangtze
And 5,000 years of cultural history
Beneath the largest chunk of cement
Ever conceived by Stanford University

To distrust
Scientists with technological cures for
Organizational problems?
DNA cures for tomatoes that ripen
DDT cures for mosquitoes that bite
Nuclear cures for energy problems
Nuclear cures for war problems
Nuclear cures for nuclear waste problems
"This just in! Top scientists announced today
that they've found a cure for
All the newsmen blared.
If Einstein was so smart
Why didn't he see we weren't ready
For MC
To be squared?

To revolt
Every time some corporation
Commits inappropriation?
A word, a plant, an idea, a gene
A famous face, mental space, sacred place, or
Sixth grade class?
Get the hell out of my watershed
Before I copyright our whole language and
Trademark your ass

To boycott
Their labels
Never worship their stars?
Carry scissors and markers and
Stand in the street
Offering on-the-spot removal of
Swooshes® from feet?

Do I care
Enough about Peace
To educate
In the Arts
Of resistance
By seeking out the real news
In Boycott Action News,
In Adbusters, WorldWatch, Mother Jones,
And Yes! Magazine?

To climb
Up the ranks
Of the Ruckus Society?

To recycle
But only as a last resort?
After reusing, retreading, reducing
Rejecting, rejoicing, and replacing our
Throwaway culture?

To wear
A plate and cup
In a cloth bag on my shoulder?
Ready to catch
Spontaneous nourishment without
Needing virgin
Old growth disposable tableware
And when the cashier say, "Paper, or Plastic?"
I'll say no
Thank you

To ask
questions about everything
I demonize, criticize
Generalize, jeopardize, ostracize, canonize
Fantasize, memorize,
Advertise or supersize?
About everything I say
I can't live without?
About everything I stand for
Sit for, work for, play for
Pray for, pay for
Live for?
About everything I eat, buy, do, make, facilitate,
Drive, consume, produce, wear, think,
Believe, value, throwaway and
Leave Behind?

Do I care
Enough about Peace
To set
Myself on fire on
Las Vegas Boulevard?

To walk
The talk?
To walk and walk and walk
To walk to the White House
To walk to Iraq
To walk to nowhere in particular
Holding a sign above my head
That says
One Walker for Peace
Ignoring mind closures and no trespassing signs
Testosterone fueled egos and
The intentionally blind
Planting tiny peace seeds in
Every fertile, bare patch of
Human mind
That I find?

Do I care enough
About Peace
To ride my bike

To work?

By Kipchoge Spencer, 2003

Duluth's Snow

I thought I'd share this funny picture from the Duluth News Tribune's online site. I didn't get to ride today, but will tomorrow and more snow is expected. This is not my bike :)