mellowtigger: (bicycle)
I want to recommend two items that I've used on my bicycle this year.  I didn't have either of them last year, and their presence is making my bicycle commute this year easier already.

The best toy I've yet found for my bicycle is this MTX compatible Explorer rear rack ($42) and the MTX TrunkBag DXP ($113). I bought them at my local shop, Fridley Heights Cyclery. They have simplified my daily commute a lot. The Trunkbag clicks on and off easily, so swapping it out is very fast and convenient.  Its central pocket holds my bike repair kit and cool weather jacket. The Trunkbag also includes some useful side panels.  The panels zip up compactly when not in use.  They unzip and fold out to hold all of my items for commuting to work (fresh clothes, fresh towel, new 2-liter Dr. Pepper) each week. Very nice.

Now that I have a rack, I also bought my first pannier bag.  I shopped around local stores first, finally ending up at Calhoun Cycle which had a large variety of bags on their shelves for convenient comparisons. I finally settled on the the Shopper ($85), since it was clearly large enough to handle a full paper bag of groceries. I've already taken it shopping, and it does work quite well. I used its shoulder strap to carry the bag with me while shopping. Afterwards, I used the pull-string cover to keep my purchases safe from the clouds that threatened rain. I noticed right away that it's important to keep the bag clipped to the rack as far back as it will go, otherwise my heel might touch the edge of the large square bag while I'm pedaling.

I have only two quibbles.  The TrunkBag is quite wide so I cannot use panniers while the bag is clipped to the rack.  They could overcome this limitation by designing the bag with some extra "height" over its rail clip, allowing pannier bags the room they need for their own clip bar. Separately, the Shopper is difficult to get into because of its pull-string cover, so it's not very convenient for emptying it out at the grocery counter and allowing the cashier to ensure that all items were removed. If the cover opened wide enough that it would fold down around the outside of the bag, it would improve accessibility a lot!

They're only minor complaints, though.  Overall, I'm very happy with the purchases and can easily recommend them to other bicyclists.

thwarted

May. 20th, 2012 08:43 pm
mellowtigger: (bicycle)
I was planning to go visit a drive-in theater to watch some movies tonight, before I give up my vehicle for the summer (to commute by bicycle instead).  It would be my first and also last trip to the drive-in for 2012.

I was halfway there when the battery light appeared on my car dashboard.  It seems a bad idea to spend several hours running on battery far away from home when the battery light is glowing.  I turned around and came back.  I stopped first at the car repair shop.  I left my car there so they can work on it.  I expect to pick it up again on Monday evening.  I walked the rest of the way home.

I guess it's nearly time to turn off my car insurance for the summer.  I've been bicycling to work several days already, so I think I'm ready to do it full-time again.

In other news, the air conditioner failed at the house this weekend.  Saturday was hot and unpleasant.  The repair technician won't be here to fix it until Wednesday.  Luckily, weather should be much cooler until then.

still tired

May. 6th, 2012 07:02 pm
mellowtigger: (bicycle)
I made my first bicycle ride of the year.  It's just 4 miles to the field where some softball teams were playing today.  I know people on 3 teams this year.  I got to see 2 of the teams this morning.

The area includes some steep hills.  I wasn't too surprised that I was unable to ride the hills and eventually had to step off and walk uphill.  It is my first ride in a long time, after all.  Mostly I was disappointed by myself afterwards, when I got home.

I ate some food and tried resting on the couch watching a movie.  That wasn't enough rest, though.  I went to bed and slept for a few hours.  *sigh*  I seem to have a lot less energy this year than I did last year.  Any amount of exercise is really wiping me out.  I hope things get better when I start commuting by bicycle again, then maybe my body will adjust to the required exertions.

mellowtigger: (bicycle)
Dodge Stratus 1996I put on my bike clothes, did my situps, put on my helmet, and filled my water bottle.  I stepped outside the door to go to my bicycle for the commute to work, and suddenly I thought, "Whoa! It's cold!"

So I came back inside and changed to my work clothes.  I'm going to drive to work today.  :)  I hadn't posted about it yet, but I did buy a car on Saturday.  It's a Dodge Stratus 1996 with 104,000 miles on it.  I updated my car insurance at a meeting on Tuesday morning.  As sparingly as I drive it, it may take a while to use up a tank of gas to figure out it's gas mileage.  I'm expecting it to be at least 20 miles per gallon, though.

I checked weather.com just now, and we have a freeze warning.  Yes, it's actually supposed to reach freezing temperature tonight.  Brrrrrr!  I bought my car just in time.  The weather is already too cold for me to commute by bicycle every day unless I spend some money on proper clothing.
mellowtigger: (bicycle)
It's August 31st, and I've officially bicycled 1,000 miles this summer while commuting. I'm "simplifying" the math in a few ways, but I started bicycling on June 1st and after traveling 82.7 miles each week for 3 months, I've finally reached 1,075 miles total. I can think of only 1 song that's appropriate for today's theme song.


"When I come home, yeah I know I'm gonna be, I'm gonna be the man who comes back home with you.
And if I grow old, well I know I'm gonna be, I'm gonna be the man who's growing old with you.
But I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more
just to be the man who walked 1,000 miles to fall down at your door.
"

The weather is already turning cool. I checked weather.com and found this record (click photo to see larger version) of temperatures in September for my postal code. The record low temperature here is freezing as early as September 3rd, which arrives on Saturday. Luckily, I don't expect the weather to be that cold, since I don't have any cold weather bicycle clothing.

I need to get a vehicle soon. I called to turn on my car insurance on Monday. The account was kept in "frozen" status. I've already gone to a nearby lot to ask about test driving one of their vehicles.

Nevertheless, my commute by bicycle did some good.I never did acquire that strength and stamina that I wanted. I never set any speed records during my commute. I was actually passed a few weeks ago by a roller blader. A roller blader! I still did a good thing this summer, though.  I wish I could continue, but winters here are too harsh.

changes

Jul. 27th, 2011 09:26 am
mellowtigger: (bicycle)
I've officially lost 20 pounds (9 kg) since I started commuting by bicycle this summer. My pants are definitely needing a belt to stay up. I may need to consider a smaller pant size soon. Except for allergies, I think I actually "feel" better in general.

I didn't know, but it's important to rotate tires on bicycles as well as motor vehicles.

Yesterday, I blew a hole in the back wheel's inner tube for no justifiable reason. As I repaired the back wheel on the trail, I gave the tire a thorough inspection since my flats are usually on the front tire. Lo and behold, I had worn so much tread this summer that the inner liner was showing on the back wheel. It was much more worn than the front tire (both pictured here). I've ridden about 585 miles (941 km) this summer, so I guess I should have expected this problem. I've had the same tires for more than a decade, though, so I was accustomed to ignoring the tread.

I rode gently the rest of the way to work. I did the same after work, detouring to the bike shop instead of going directly home. I replaced both tires for a mere US$36.40, significantly less than replacing tires on a motor vehicle.

In unrelated news, Livejournal has been having troubles for many days. Apparently, it's their own trouble rather than another denial of service attack. I was unable to upload my photographs to Livejournal for posting today, so I'm experimenting with using Google+ instead. I'm not keen on consolidating so much usage at Google. I wish Dreamwidth would get its act together and add picture hosting soon.

bike cred

Jul. 20th, 2011 12:03 am
mellowtigger: (flameproof)
heat alertsFor any readers unaware, the central American states are experiencing a record heat wave. Hot weather alerts have gone out for so many states and counties that they don't all fit on a single (or even 3) regional maps at the weather.com website.

When I left for my bicycle commute to work today around 11:15am, I checked the website first because the skies appeared to be growing stormy.  I saw that it was just a small formation, and we were only getting clipped by the edge of it here, so I went on my merry way to work.

As I left the house, the sky was so dark that the street lights were coming on.  I got about half a mile away before the wind hit with light rain.  I kept going.  Soon afterward, the rain was so heavy that I couldn't see where I was heading any more.  I couldn't wipe my eyes dry fast enough to avoid sticks and puddles.  There was also small hail.

heat index 48C/119FI took shelter underneath a bridge in renovation.  Some kind person had previously torn down the chain link fence intended to keep people away from the bridge.  I hid there for about 15 minutes while the torrential rain, light hail, and frequent lightning went by.  Afterwards, the skies were cool and bright, and it made for a very nice commute to work.  I was soaked, but it was still pleasant.  Even late this evening, my tennis shoes are still soaked.

On the way home from work, the heat wave was back in force.  Here's the image (at left) that I snagged from weather.com before I changed at work into my still-wet bicycle clothes to begin my commute back home.  Yes, that heat index is at 48C/119F.  Yikes.

So, this summer, I've been traveling 85 miles each week, I've ridden when it was cold enough for my breath to fog and my eyes to water, I've ridden during downpours and hail, I've ridden during ridiculously high temperatures, and I've been lightly clipped by a passing car. I've even discovered that I'm actually down to the last of my tread on the rear wheel (knobby, wide, trail tread) of my bicycle.

I think I've finally earned some bicycler credentials this year.
mellowtigger: (bicycle)
dog delayWhile bicycle commuters may be familiar with delays caused by weather or construction, I think maybe I've found a new and interesting obstruction.  I've worked at AHS for 3.5 years, and this occasion is my first encounter with solo dog exercise.  Normally they take animals outdoors for a run around the park area.  This animal must have been a special needs case because of either health or temperament.

I park my bicycle indoors at the corporate garage and dock area.  It's a very large space that can accommodate large vehicles, several trailers, and many pallets of animal food.  During humane investigations cases that involve seizure of large numbers of animals, we keep the overflow in temporary cages set up in this area too.

I finished work for the day, changed clothes in the locker room, then went down to the garage to get my bike for the commute home.  I ended up having to wait another 10-15 minutes until the garage space was free.  I'm not complaining.  Animals get the right-of-way in the shelter.  I'm amused more than anything else.  :)

friendly rabbitI've still been neglecting Furry Friday posts.  Sorry about that oversight.  My stress level has gone down a bit, but animals are still moving through our shelter to adoption so fast that I don't have time to learn their personalities very well before they're already out to a new home.

Here's a rabbit that I met about 4 weeks ago.  I noticed the remarkable fur right away.  When I found time for a quick visit, I also discovered a very friendly personality.  Of course, this animal got adopted a day or two later.

It's a little hard to see in this photo, but maybe you can notice the sunburn on my forearm?  That's from my early days of commuting by bicycle.  I never did burn badly enough to peel skin, but I do have a nice dark tone now that I'm unaccustomed to having.  Most people in this cold climate have typical pasty pale skin.  *laugh*
mellowtigger: (bicycle)
That would be an interesting name for a blog, wouldn't it?

commute by bicycleWe went from 38C/100F last week on Tuesday to 10C/50F just a few days later. In temperature that cool, I had to wear a jacket to keep warm during the ride-generated wind. Even so, the cold air pushing into my face made my eyes water a lot. We had 3 days like that, where I was crying as I rode to work.

I used MapQuest.com to map out my usual bike path, and it works out to 13.3km/8.27mi each way. So I ride about 133km/82.7mi each week, counting the trip to and from work 5 days a week.

I started commuting by bicycle on June 1st.  I've already lost 4.3kg/9.5# in weight during these 2.5 weeks. Not bad. I'm still waiting for the muscle buildup that will make the trip easier.  It hasn't happened yet, it seems.

Nevertheless, I think I'm going to order a home delivered pizza tonight as a reward.  Yum.  :)

firsts

Jun. 7th, 2011 06:21 pm
mellowtigger: (bicycle)
I've marked the passage of a few "firsts" in my bicycle commuting adventure.  I don't know what to do when rain finally arrives.  Guess I'll find out on that day.

clipped:  I got clipped by a car on Friday coming home from work.  I had the eastbound right of way, but the oncoming westbound car decided to gun the engine and make a left turn to beat the other eastbound cars (not noticing me).  Luckily I pounded the pedals fast enough to escape any frame or rim damage.  My back wheel bounced and skidded a bit, then I rode on without any problems.

jock itch: I shower after getting to work, but air conditioning is regularly bad there.  Even when I drove to work in a truck, I ended up sweating in my cubicle from the heat.  So now with bicycle commuting, I don't actually dry out for 6 hours out of the day.  Not fun.

38C/100F: I rode home today in very hot weather.  Ugh.

adjustable handlebar: Wow, this change makes such a great difference on my wrists.  I should've put it on my bicycle when I first got it 12 years ago.  I swapped out my old handlebar stem with one that adjusts from horizontal (facing forward like the old one) to vertical (pushing the handlebar much closer to my torso).

appetite: The voracious appetite struck me on Friday evening.  I've made it thus far without any pizza, but I have succumbed to scarfing down vast quantities of corn chips.  I'll try this week to reduce my consumption.

I had intended to start a new paleolithic diet as well, but I've backed off of it somewhat.  Too many changes for me to accommodate at once.  Still, though, I've been trying out a few recipes.

parsnip: I made a buffalo and parsnip chile last week that would've been very good with some sharp cheddar cheese to balance out the sweetness.  I was expecting parsnips to be sort of like potatoes, but they aren't.  They're just albino carrots, very sweet.  Maybe next time I'll try rutabaga with the buffalo meat instead?

broccoli salad: I always enjoy eating that broccoli-bacon-mayonnaise salad, but I never made it until this weekend.  I ate some of it yesterday, and it's very yummy.  I need to figure out how to get more volume from the liquid stuff so everything coats better, but it was very easy to make and very tasty.

commuting

Jun. 3rd, 2011 07:48 am
mellowtigger: (bicycle)
I've wanted for more than 20 years to commute by bicycle instead of gasoline vehicle.  It takes some of the charm away when I have to do it by circumstance rather than choice, but it's still kind of cool.

I'm much more out-of-shape than usual when taking on a 10-mile ride.  Normally, I work up slowly to longer distances, but this year I didn't have time to prepare.  I started out immediately by commuting 20 miles each day (10 miles each way).  The first day wasn't too bad, but the second day was painful.  I had muscle aches and strong headwinds that had me stopping frequently for short breaks.  I don't have the stamina (yet) for uphills and headwinds.  Today will be my third day, and we'll see how it goes.

So far the only thing I can see preventing me from doing this all summer is my wrists.  My carpel tunnel problems do not appreciate this new burden.  I went to the bike shop yesterday morning to buy a new handlebar neck that will allow me to tilt the handlebar upward to bring it higher and closer to my body.  I'm hoping that change will ease the weight that I have to place on my wrists.  I'll install it this weekend.


Some of these people seem even older than I am, so I feel good about continuing my commute while the warm weather remains.  It'll certainly be a good way for me to lose about 30 pounds this summer.  My appetite hasn't zoomed into high gear yet because of the increased activity, but I know to expect that effect soon.

Meanwhile, I'm considering other options for hauling my carcass from point A to point B.  During warm weather, I could try a recumbent fold-up tricycle instead of a longtail bicycle.  That would be great for my wrists, and it would easily store during winter weather.  I have all summer to continuously check the auto auctions just a few blocks from where I live.  If I'm lucky, I can find a good deal for winter weather transportation.  I'm also wondering if it's possible to lease a vehicle for just 6 months at a time?  That would be the ideal way to commute, I think, because I would only have to pay for gasoline transportation during the months when it's really needed.

I called Dunwoody once, to see if they could use my truck for training students in auto repair, but I didn't reach a live person and I didn't try again.  I was also unable to find the junk dealer just a few blocks from where I live.  Finally, I just signed up online for somebody to come take my truck.  I also suspended my car insurance.  They'll keep my account active (but not charging me anything) until I have another vehicle to cover, then they will resume my account while keeping my 10-year no-accident-responsibility discount.

I commute by bike!  :)))
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
Today, on the way to work, some new "very bad sounds" [tm] were coming from beneath my truck.  After work, I drove it to the mechanic shop to have them look at the problem.  Quite unexpectedly, the bottom of the truck decided to rust out all at once.  Apparently this last, long winter with salted roads was very bad on it.  The numerous repairs are in the $2000-2500 range, and that's not counting the $2000 suspension work that I already knew about since the day that I bought the truck.  I figure the truck itself is only worth about $2000 today anyway, so I'm thinking about leaving it at a junk yard.  I need to decide by morning if I want the repairs.

I'd be happy to spend that amount of money on a new bicycle that could be used to haul stuff around during warm weather.  Good timing, I suppose, since I was already looking for such a vehicle just two weeks ago.  I guess I already have my bicycle options ready to ponder and choose.  I wonder if my "new job title" requires any travel between remote sites?  If not, then being bound to the single site would make bicycle life a whole lot more convenient.  I suppose a few months without having to pay gasoline prices (nearing $100/month) and car insurance would free up some extra money to spend on a 4-wheeled solution for winter months.

The big problem with bicycling in Minnesota is the winter weather.  I just don't see any 2-wheeled solution (gasoline, electric, or pedal) being viable during the long, snowbound winter months here.  If the cities devoted as much attention to bike trails as to streets, it would be a different story.  Usually, though, streets get plowed and the bike lanes become the dumping ground for all of that extra snow.  Streets get crowded as 2 lanes dwindle down to 1 lane because of snow.  Sharing the narrow road space with slow bicycles never crosses the mind of the 4-wheeled drivers.  Not good.

It's the future already.  There aren't any hover cars around, and I can live with that deficiency, but why can't I at least have something sleek and energy efficient and cheap?  I would even settle for a Twike, but one of those costs $16,000 for reasons I can't fathom.  The Kurrent is more in my price range, but I still don't understand why even that vehicle costs $10,000.  Metal and rubber have gotten rather expensive over the years, it seems.  What happened to the cheap electric car that GM promised? Is China holding us by the palladium bits already?
mellowtigger: (Ark II)
I'm adding a new tag to my blog: preparations.  I'll use it to describe my efforts to prepare for what I consider to be imminent catastrophes.  I see four of them: financial (printed money), economic (oil scarcity affecting all productivity), environmental (global warming), and nutritional (healthy food).

I'm considering selling my bicycle in favor of a "longtail" bicycle.  Basically, a longtail is just a regular bike but with a longer rear wheel and fender to make it easier to haul things around.  There seems to be some kind of "open source" standard established by a company called Xtracycle, so that various accessories are compatible between different brands of bikes.  I very much approve of open standards.

Their high end bike is called the Big Dummy.  I don't care for the name, but I do like what they are capable of doing.  I want something that could easily:Unfortunately, my carpel tunnel problems require that I avoid putting lots of weight on my wrists.  There is a company that specializes in recumbent bicycles that also makes a longtail "semi-recumbent" version called the Hammertruck.  Their bike is not compatible with the Xtracycle accessories though.  :(

I'm experiencing some indecision about which one I should try to acquire.   I really wish the Hammertruck was compatible with Xtracycle accessories.  If it was, I'd order one of them right away.  The wide variety of Xtracycle accessories, though, is really appealing.
mellowtigger: (Default)
We had a quarterly department meeting this morning, so I went to work at 9am today instead of the usual 1pm. Since I put in my 4 hours and still had lots of sunny time left in the day, I decided to ride my bicycle back to work so I could time myself for the trip. Unfortunately, I have to carry the pager every other week, so I can't ride my bike to work on those days, but on weeks off I could do it. I used to want to do this sort of thing just out of a sense of environmental responsibility. There's also the health benefit. These days, though, my primary motivation is to save on fuel costs. Bicycling could make a serious dent in my expenses. It costs about $4 round trip for me to drive to work each day. Riding the bus would cost the same.

Although there is a locker room to change clothes at work, I'm pretty sure there is no shower. Q: Do any of you know how that works out? Do you end up smelling like a gym locker the whole day, or is a wipedown with a towel sufficient to stay office-fresh for the day?

Anyway, so I was out bicycling to work this afternoon just to time myself. Minneapolis has two major bicycle paved trails that I know of. One of them connects to downtown Minneapolis. It's an old "rails-to-trails" path that I call simply the "bicycle highway". Another area is a World War I memorial parkway with a separate bike/pedestrian road that I call the "northern highway". Conveniently for me, about half of the path that I take from house to work is entirely the northern highway. Very pleasant to ride without having to deal with cars. :)

I was almost all of the way to work. I detoured to the unpaved park bicycle trail that was marked "Difficult" since it seemed to lead directly to the humane society's parking lot. Yes, it is difficult. I had a hard time pedaling without hitting the rocks that jutted up from the dirt trail. I had the parking lot in sight. I paused to consider how best to make it down the steep hill safely. Am I already rolling downhill? Brakes. Bike stopped, good.   Hey, I'm still moving!  I actually rolled forward off of my bicycle down the hill and landed with my back (no shirt, I was enjoying the sunshine) against tree bark. Oops.

I picked up my bicycle and walked the rest of the way down to the parking lot. About 30 seconds later is when the lightheaded/deaf phase arrived. I thought adrenaline worked a lot faster than that, so I can't guess what prompted that episode. It passed in only a minute or so.  I found someone outside in back on their break and asked them what time it was. It took me one hour to reach work from the house. I could go faster easily enough, but a 1 hour trip seems like a good plan.

I started to take off back home when I realized that the bike seat had fallen down the shaft during the bike roll. I fixed that and made it back home without incident. I checked out my back in the bathroom mirror once I got back home. It'll probably make an impressive scab this weekend, but it didn't seem bad at all for now. When I sat down at the computer, though, T'Reese came over right away to sniff at at. I guess maybe it looks worse than it feels. :) This is why I wear a helmet whenever I ride. Small step to prevent a serious injury.

At least the tube repair that I did this weekend has held very well. I didn't have to air the back tire even once during the trip.
mellowtigger: (Default)
I went out today to ride my bicycle before work (before the weather turned drizzly and dreary). I took my camera with me, intending to take snapshots of the trail that I travel. I have a very small memory card, unfortunately, so I didn't get the complete trip. Maybe later I'll post the landscape that I travel through, but I figured I'd just post the animals that I encountered today.

Click photos for larger version(s).

The neighbor's cat waited by the door as I stepped outside, hoping that I'd feed her (which I sometimes do).

On the northbound trail, I met two geese and their goslings.

Southbound, I get to see an island in the middle of the Mississippi where birds (I think cranes) nest.

I wish I had video available. One crane would spiral down around the island to land, pick up a stick, then spiral back upwards to the nest to deposit the stick.

And a rabbit near the trail.
mellowtigger: (Default)
The weather in Minnesota is gorgeous today. It's 74F/23C with light blue skies and gentle breeze. I had an early shift at work today (9am-1pm), so I went on my first bicycle ride of the year when I got home.

Oof! I am so out of shape. At one (relatively gentle) uphill slope I was actually at the lowest possible gear setting and still huffing for breath. Still, it was great to be outside again. Conveniently, the house where I stay is only a few blocks from the trail system. Once there, I ride through a small park area to the Mississippi River, turn north for a mile or two, cross the river, then head back south again. There's even a small waterfall for a stream that feeds into the river. Some people were out with binoculars watching birds nest in tall trees on a small island in the river. A few people were fishing.

Minnesota in spring is beautiful... and then the mosquitos come.

I should take a camera out with me sometime and capture some images of the things I see. For now, I figured I'd just capture a picture after my ride. I rarely get any photos of me. My most recent is nearly a year old already. Click for larger versions.



That'll have to suffice for now.

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