Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Little Something for the Ladies

Earlier this year, there were a couple posts on dressing for colder weather. Those posts assumed that all commuters are guys, and maybe some unisex-dressing ladies. There was a recent post on Let's Go Ride a Bike that tackled this issue in a decidedly softer fashion. I invite you to click over to Dottie's post where she shares her tips for staying warm fashionably. Nice post, Dottie!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Solo Breakfast Ride

I have a great work schedule in that I get every other Friday off. Occasionally I spend some or all of that off-Friday on my bike. This past Friday, I was inspired by Rat Trap Press to check out Benito's on Magnolia in Fort Worth.

Approaching Benito's, coming north on Fairmount.

Fairmount is one of the older residential neighborhoods in Fort Worth. It's best described as "spotty". It's a historic district, so as the homes are fixed up, they are kept true to the flavor of the neighborhood, and there are some truly beautiful homes. But there are also some eyesores that need to be leveled. Anyway, once I got closer to Benito's,

I found out that they don't open until 11 am on weekdays! So I made my way back to 8th Avenue and Park Place.

Because on my way through there earlier I noted that Esperanza's was open.

So I stopped in.

There was no place to lock my Raleigh DL-1 up, so I just left The Old Gentleman out front and grabbed a table near the window.

Looking around the place... looked a little upscale. Luckily they have daily breakfast and lunch specials.

Being Friday, I ordered the "Huevos a la mexicana". For a little price you get a big breakfast!

The food was excellent. I'm not a big fan of hot, spicy food. The eggs had a nice bite to them, but weren't too hot. While I was there, I looked around at the other customers. The place was frequented by a combination of white gringos like myself, and mexicanos, many of them appeared to be workmen who I would think would know where to get the best Mexican food. This restaurant is in a neighborhood boundary area kind of like Filigree describes on her Lovely Bicycle! blog. But here, there wasn't such a stark line between the neighborhoods; there was a little more mixing and transition.

Within a block or two of Esperanza's are several other interesting looking eateries, including the generically named Joe's Italian Restaurant,

Chadra Mezza Grill (next to Herringbone Home Furnishings), serving Lebanese and Italian food,

and the Old Neighborhood Grill

East of 8th Avenue is Fairmount which I described earlier. If you go west down Park Place, you come into Berkeley Place, another older neighborhood. This one is extremely well kept, though, featuring tree-lined streets,

a "vintage" school (Lily B. Clayton Elementary),

and some very nice, well-preserved homes.

I did 23 miles on my Raleigh 3-speed, a nice workout, considering the bike weighs about 50 pounds. Then again, after that breakfast, I needed some exercise. ;- )

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cyclists Unite! We Have Nothing to Lube But Our Chains!

More advice from ChipSeal

Home after the commute in the rain, should the bicycle be put away wet? Yes and no.

Steve noticed grit everywhere when he was done acting like a six year old, (Fifteenth comment.) and you will have a grit problem whenever you ride in the rain or at a beach.

Road or beach sand acts as an abrasive on your chain, gears, brake pads and rims. This is the stuff we want to remove after a ride in the rain. Then we want to re-lubricate the chain.

First thing when you get home, before you dry off, grab a rag and a hose and spray down your bike. I recommend doing this on the front lawn. If it is still raining, and your neighbors notice you, it will confirm their suspicions as to your mental state! If they ask you about it just say; "Don't worry, the bicycle likes it!"

Your first target should be the undersides of your fenders with the bike on its side. This will stop all that crud stuck under there from falling down on the newly cleaned parts or messing with your parking space. (For ChipSeal, that would be his bedroom.)

Then stand the bike up and spray downward over the entire bicycle. A hard spray can force water into the frame cavity through cable guides, water bottle screws and other tiny holes. It won't hurt most bottom brackets, but it can be hard on any part that has iron in it. (If it is "real", if you know what I mean!)

After a quick rinse, open your brakes and and give the face of the pads a good hard spray. Run your fingertips along the face and dislodge any grains of sand lodged there. This will keep the pads performance top notch and prevent deep scoring of the rim, extending it's useful life.

Many brake pads seem to melt in the rain. You may find your rims smeared with black residue and streaks down your fork and seat stays. Now is the easiest time to remove it while it is still wet, and why you brought a rag. In my case, my reflective tape's performance will have been compromised by this phenomena.

After a final rinse of your rims and brakes, close your brakes to avoid a surprise and spray down all of your chain and gears. Hard spray is fine. Don't be afraid to overdo it. Then park the bike where it can drip dry and get out of your wet clothes.

Later, lube your chain. I use a two step spray and wax lube method. Sheldon Brown didn't, but said there were many legitimate camps. So I will describe what I do, and hope not to start any fights.

I use White Lightning Clean Streak degreaser. This will remove all the lube and dirt left on your chain, and displace all that water as well.

I use cardboard to protect my rims from over-spray and later, over-drip. Spray the Clean Sweep generously on the chain while rotating it back wards in your favorite chain ring. The wipe with rags for about five chain rotations. If it is still picking up black, repeat the process. Then let it air for about ten minutes.

I use Rock and Roll lubrication "Red", or as I learned from their product site, "Extreme". I follow their directions, and I use it generously. This is a wax based lubrication, and it suits my cycling because it resists collecting dust. I a ride a bit on dirt roads.

These extra steps will diminish the extra wear your bicycle receives by riding in the rain. I will not take them if there is little evidence of grit on the bike. Once you see a gritty bike, you will see it is not hard to see.

If you anticipate a long ride or commute in the rain, you may want to consider taking along some chain lube to apply.

I have found a few parts on my single-speed to have an inclination to rust. The bolts on my stem and water bottle cages. You may wish to give them a shot of Pledge Protection Plus.

My wet cycling shoes get stuffed with newspaper for about ten minutes, and then I take it out and replace it with more dry newspaper.

And now it is your turn. What do you do when you come home wet?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More Rainy Ruminations

After reading ChipSeal's ruminations on the riding in the rain and the ensuing discussion Sunday night, I decided that no amount of rain was going to keep me from riding Monday. I woke to the sound of a steady downpour on the roof, took my shower, ate, and steeled myself for the ride. I stepped out the door and... the rain had stopped, leaving me with wet roads and misty conditions. I decided to take a few pics along the way with my Crappy Cellphone Camera™. When I started it was dark. Lucky I had my blinkies on to make sure cars could see me.....?

Despite my desire to be a proper vehicular cyclist, I admit that I cut through a parking lot shortly after leaving home. The compelling reason I keep doing this is that if I stuck to the road I would get stuck at a left turn lane that just doesn't trip if there are no cars around. Anyway, looking across the parking lot to the Sonic Drive-In:

No, this isn't surreal art; this is the view coming up to a car at a red light. If you squint you can make out my handlebars in the foreground.

Here's proof it was me taking the pictures.

I kind of gave up on the pictures for a while; cutting through the neighborhoods it was just too dark for the CCC™ to get a good picture. I finally came out at a busy intersection. The glare ChipSeal mentions is pretty apparent; that big red blotch at the bottom is the reflection of the red light on the wet ground.

Checking for traffic before making my right turn. This is the spot where I asked about how to make a left turn from a busy street, for which ChipSeal gave me advice. I turn right at this light, then left at the next one.

Riding in the left lane of Hulen Street going 10 mph.

Cutting through another parking lot. OH NOEZ!

Finally, coasting down Hooters Hill into the office. Weee!

After work, it alternated between mist, drizzle and light rain. With temps in the 70s it was rather pleasant actually. I tried some hardcore vehicular cycling under rainy conditions. I was treated quite well by the cars; they probably felt sorry for me. This is at Bryant Irvin and I-20, a busy intersection in the middle of a busy retail area.

Just before the light turned green, an ambulance flew through the intersection, lights and siren going!

Getting ready to turn at a double left turn lane.

Cruising down Overton Ridge after the turn.

Getting ready for another left turn, this time onto Hulen. The reason I'm mentioning streets, by the way, is so people familiar with Fort Worth can see that vehicular cycling on some of the busiest streets in town is not only possible, but safe, too.

Although it looks like this truck is cutting me off, he was actually stationary as I approached from the rear. He had just moved over to the right lane to make a right turn, but because there are train tracks ahead he didn't have enough room to squeeze into the lane.

Much of the rest of the ride was through neighborhood streets.

I hate speed bumps.

A little lighter out than it was in the morning.... yeah, it really is me.

People Power!!!

One more stretch on busy streets.

The Sonic Drive-In near home.

And the American flag at the other end of the parking lot. Note I'm not cutting through the lot this way; no reason to.

The left turn onto my street.

Almost home.

Home sweet home.

My trusty steed.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ruminations About the Rain.

Tomorrow, if you choose to commute here in DFW, you are going to get wet. I recommend doing so!

If you have been commuting to work in the heat, then changing clothes at work is already part of your routine. Because of the mild temperatures, trying to avoid getting wet is a fool's game as any rain gear will just keep most of the clean water off you while you sweat like it is 100 degrees out.

I like the new synthetic "wicking" materials in warm weather rain. The rain just flows off you. Wet street clothes are much more abrasive in "high-friction" areas when they get wet. Do consider Lycra shorts in wet weather!

I also recommend wearing your oldest and most worn-out clothing in the rain. The passing motorists will send up into the air all manner of grime, and you will be covered in it. It will form a dingy grey grunge on all of your clothes, and it can be difficult to remove. (The enzyme based pre-wash treatments like Shout seem to be effective.)

Try as you might, your feet will get wet. This will be a problem in the cold storms of the coming winter, but this week I would just resign myself to wet feet and not mess with trying to keep them dry.

If you haven't ridden in the rain, here are some tips, and pardon me if I sound condescending, I am trying to cover all the bases here. No disrespect- There was a time I didn't know any of this either!

With caliper rim brakes, there will be a delay between application of the brakes and friction that gives deceleration. The wheel will often need one full turn to wipe away water before working. Expect and allow for this by planning your stops and slowing early.

Avoid puddles. All the potholes fill up with water and lurk around waiting to catch cyclists unawares, masquerading as benign puddles.

All manhole covers and railroad tracks are as slick as snot. Stay out of the motor oil "drip zone" in the center of travel lanes, especially at intersections. Be mindful of this when turning from one road onto another.

Fenders will make this week a lot nicer for bicycle commuters. Late in the week, even though it will be sunny days, the roads will still have water everywhere in your path. On those days, fenders expand your wardrobe options. Without them, you will have to stick to old ready to discard clothes, for they will all become stained. And even with fenders, your feet are likely to get wet all week.

I wear glasses, and often I will have better vision if I remove them in the rain, especially if I am getting a lot of spray from passing automobiles.

Automobile operators are having similar vision problems. Even if their wipers are in good shape, they will be peering through water doppled side windows when they are making crossing movements at intersections- the operationally most dangerous place for a law-abiding cyclist in good weather! Therefore, do run your lights in the rain, and expect to have more conflicts at intersections than normal. In fact leave more time for your commute. Rainy days are not days to be in a rush to get to the office.

The worst part is when you are just beginning your trip, and you are not yet completely drenched. Once you are as wet as you can be, it is rather exhilarating to ride in the rain. I do not think that riding in the rain is significantly more dangerous than riding in good weather. Both are safer than many of our other daily activities. (Like taking a shower, for instance.)

So get out there and do it! You cycled in during the hot summer weeks, show that you are not just a fair weather cyclist! It will also give you more confidence to keep cycling during the colder months ahead.

You will be glad you did!