20120131

Strand Ninja!

It appears as though sometime last night someone went out onto The Strand and the adjacent sharrowed street and stenciled inspirational sayings for cyclists.  I got to ride today while being greeted by "Nice Bike!" and "Lets ride LA!"  I had to get to work, but later, I'll try to get some photos. 

Cleaned my commuter last night, and it's about 75% less sandy than it was before.  Of course, after riding this morning, it's probably gross again.  Oh well.
Mmm, chain grease
Only got honked at twice today, for stopping at a stop sign and proceeding when I had the right of way.  Thanks motorists!

2012 Distance Count: 189 Miles | 304.2 Kilometers

20120130

On Baked Goods

Someday I'm going to design something that will allow baked goods to be efficiently transported on a bicycle.  I love to bake almost as much as I love to bike, and I love sharing my baked goods with my coworkers, but the problem is when I make anything slightly fragile to bring in to work, I can only transport it via car if I want to keep my cupcakes/cookies/other magical goodies looking pretty.  Or, if I don't want caramel all over my panniers.  

I made homemade Twix bars today, and try as I might, there was just no way to get them into a pannier in such a way that would protect them.  A rear rack solution might work for something like that, but what about cupcakes rattling around?  

Fortunately I love my coworkers, so the stress of driving to work one day is worth it just to see their faces light up when I bring goodies.

Seriously.  Bike cake rack.  I could make millions.

2012 Distance Count: 182 Miles | 292.9 Kilometers

20120127

You Wanna Race?

Competition always gets the best of me.  

I wish I could say I was a better loser.  But I'm not.  There's something about being on a bike and seeing someone up ahead of me that triggers an instant response.  Same with someone passing me - I immediately go into race mode.
But the thing that grinds my gears the most is the people that break laws and then pass me.  If you're faster than me, that's cool.  I respect that, grudgingly, but respect nonetheless.  But if you're running stop signs and passing me?

Oh HELL no.

I'm talking about you, Mr. I'm-too-good-to-stop-at-stop-signs-and-lights-even-though-there-are-cars-there.  Watching you disrupt traffic and give the rest of us law abiding cyclists a bad name was enough to throw me into a complete state of fury.  And even though I dislike you, seeing you almost get hit multiple times just isn't cool.

Which is why you found yourself being passed at high speeds by the girl on the steel commuter with panniers.  You know, the girl that climbed that massive hill faster than you.  The girl that did stop at all the signs, lights, and obeyed the traffic laws in general.  The one that still left you in the dust.

Yeah, I saw the look of defeat on your face.  

Maybe now you'll get off your carbon high horse and start obeying the law a bit more.

2012 Distance Count: 182 Miles | 292.9 Kilometers

20120126

Just Another Thursday

Aww yeah, Campy dust caps!

I'm doing a project on Facebook where I take one photo every day.  More often than not, they're bike related, so I've been cross posting them here.  

I don't always use my cell phone to take bike photos, but it's nice for these quick day-to-day shots.  

I love the old Shimano 600/Ultegra tri-color group.  Not only is it mechanically wonderful, it's also a lovely group.  I'm lucky that I was able to build my commuter with just about all 600 parts - I think the only thing different are the shifters, which are old school Dura Ace. 

I'm a sucker for vintage.

2012 Distance Count: 175 Miles | 281.6 Kilometers

20120125

On Horses

Tonight's commute resulted in a new favorite insult.  

I hate one of the following words, but I won't omit it so you can all experience the full effect:

"GET A HORSE, FAGGOT!" 

Stay classy, Hermosa.

2012 Distance Count: 168 Miles | 270.4 Kilometers

20120124

The Things I'd Have Missed

Usually I take my rides home a bit slower, as I'm a bit tired at the end of the day and like to enjoy my night ride along the beach.  But competition always gets the best of me.

I had just hopped on the Strand, which is the bike path I take coming home, when I was passed by a fellow commuter.  I'd seen him before - a lean, fast rider who rides a carbon Giant.  Today I decided that I was going to keep up with him, so I pushed forward and kept about 20 feet behind him the entire length of the strand.  After a while, he noticed that I was keeping pace, and I hoped that he didn't mind - he was going fast, it was a really good workout!  When the Strand converged on the street that I take the rest of the way home, he slowed down and I caught up to him.  I thanked him for keeping the pace, and he laughed, saying he had just initially been trying to pass me!  We chatted a bit on the way home about our commutes, our steeds, and how we had mutual respect for each other in regards to stopping at stop signs.  His destination was much further south than mine, so we parted ways and he continued on.

Now tell me - when was the last time this happened to you in a car?  Has it ever happened - keeping pace with someone to eventually slow down for a nice chat?  Meeting a new person and exchanging pleasantries from your motor vehicle?  

You just don't get things like this in a car.  Sure, I have a lot of unpleasant encounters, but the little ones like this really make my day, and really remind me how much I enjoy the ride.

Thanks Andrew, it was great meeting you!  Hopefully I will see you again on my commute.
 
2012 Distance Count: 154 Miles | 247.8 Kilometers

The Sand Dune Game and Southern California Jogger Mothers

Yesterday I awoke to find it absolutely pouring rain.  I don't mean misty, or even a moderate rain.  I mean sheets upon sheets of furious raindrops pounding down with a vengeance.  I don't mind riding in the wind and rain, but I will not ride if A) I worry the rain is strong enough to damage my bicycle and B) I worry the SoCal drivers are already going to be not so great already. 

That said, it was nice to get back on the bike this morning.  Then I remembered that storms always render the bike path a minefield of small sand dunes.  My ride suddenly became a minigame of dodge the dune, which is a lot of fun until you lose.  Fortunately, I had only one close call, a slightly wobble, but I quickly recovered.

Then I encountered Her.  

I don't know what it is about Southern California Jogger Mothers.  But I see them out all the time - they have a double stroller, 90% of the time containing only one child, and said stroller is so wide that it takes up the entire width of the bike path (because you see, Southern California Jogger Mothers are far, far better than any cyclist, and can use the bike path all they want as opposed to the lowly pedestrian path that they should be using).  What little space is left on the bike path is taken up by a small, untrained dog on a leash who is running erratically all over the bike path, preventing any chance of anyone passing these woman and their cargo.  If you politely inform a Southern California Jogger Mother that you need to pass, you will be met with a glare and some unkind words on common courtesy as she clutches her latte with her fake nails, iPod blaring some terrible boy band.  

"Thanks, have a nice day!" I'll say.

"Get a job and car like everyone else!  F***ing cyclist!" She'll say.  

I really enjoy encounters with Southern California Jogger Mothers.  But today was especially interesting due to the sand dunes.  I saw her, up ahead, and there was nothing I could do.  I kindly asked to pass, and was promptly ignored.  So I slowed down and stayed on her tail, biding my time.  There was a widening in the path up ahead.  I knew it, she knew it.  My mental soundtrack switched to Ride of the Valkyries, and I began to make my move, pacing myself just right.  She was speeding up.  She knew.  And she would be damned if some entitled cyclist tried to pass her on this bicycle path. 

I made my move.

She made hers.

For a brief moment, our eyes met.  My gaze was calm, cool, collected, and hers full of seething rage - the rage was almost palpable.  Her tiny, yappy dog had a sense of something wrong, and was lunging at my wheels while emitting high pitched noises that may or may not have been attempts to bark.  She tried to say something, flecks of white saliva flying from her mouth, her face red from running and hate.  I thought I heard something as I switched into my high gear and sped off, avoiding the dunes along the way.  It sounded like a banshee howling.   

The rest of my ride was fairly uneventful.

2012 Distance Count: 147 Miles | 236.6 Kilometers

20120122

Lazy Sunday

My commuter, Se7en, is the sexy one on the left. 
Been a busy work filled weekend, but I did grab this shot of the stable yesterday that I thought I'd share here.  

Hope everyone got some good rides in this weekend!  I'm off to work even more and clean Se7en for the upcoming commutes. 

2012 Distance Count: 140 Miles | 225.3 Kilometers

20120120

Weekend!

Or almost the weekend, anyway.  Everyone knows weekends in California start Thursday night anyway...and I'm pretty sure half the population of LA doesn't work on Fridays.

It was a great week for commuting - cold, slightly cloudy mornings and foggy evenings.  I'd like to get out for a short ride this weekend, but I have a major project due Monday that is going to prevent me from doing just about anything.  At some point, I'll return to my regularly scheduled weekend programming of wrenching, riding, and bike photography.  

2012 Distance Count: 140 Miles | 225.3 Kilometers

20120118

Belt Drives

Boy, do I ever hate driving in traffic.

I didn't ride today because I'll be bouldering after work, and until I can figure out a safe way to get to the bouldering gym by bike, I'm resorting to my car on days when I decide to give my upper body a chance at exercise.  That said, traffic sucks.  I'm quite glad I don't have to deal with that everyday.

I've been doing a lot of research on belt drives lately, and it seems like a lot of bikes have adopted the belt, especially in cyclocross and urban commuting.  While a belt still lacks the traditional derailleur system, there are some internally geared hubs that are gaining notoriety.  The Shimano Alfine regularly gets praised amongst the geared belt-driven bike community, and an 11 speed version is now available.  Belts are becoming more commonplace on single speed commuters, and are also slowly starting to enter the fixed gear market as well.  Check out Base Urban's belt driven fixed beauties.  


As far as components go, Gates Carbon Belt Drives are the original purveyors of belt drives for bicycles, but Phil Wood is starting to produce a line of products compatible with the gates carbon drive as well.   The Trek Soho and Trek District have been around with belts for the past few years, and seem to be doing well.  Anyone following EcoVelo (or followed, sadly) knows about the Civia Bryant, and how reliable it is as one of the available geared belt driven bikes out there.


Belts will never replace chains, but belts certainly have a practical application as an option for commuters and city bikes.  And actually, what I'm wondering is why belts aren't on beach cruisers, of all things, quite yet - they'd be the perfect candidate.


Chain Pros
  • Tried and true system
  • Can be replaced without needing to break the frame
  • Easily repaired and replaced
  • Adjustable Length
  • Lots of gear ratios available
  • Compatible with a front derailleur
Chain Cons
  • Requires regular cleaning and maintenance
  • Grease gets everywhere (clothes, hands, small animals...)
  • Stretches over time, which can damage components
  • Can snap while riding 
  • Noisy, squeaky, and rusty if not well maintained
Belt Pros
  • Quiet
  • Easy to clean 
  • Requires no grease
  • Doesn't stretch
  • Supposedly lasts twice as long as a standard chain 
  • Provides the same power as a chain
Belt Con
  • Requires a special frame and components
  • Cannot achieve the same gear ratios as a chain
  • Incompatible with a front derailleur
  • Must be tensioned properly, making rear wheel removal difficult
  • Incorrectly aligned belt can slip
  • Newer system that might have unforseen problems (though they've worked long enough in cars and motorcycles, right?)
  • Still a bit more expensive than a chain system
I see belts as being a great option for those with slightly less bike maintenance knowledge, or people who are just looking for a fun ride without wanting to worry about getting the "cyclist's tattoo."  Belts would be a great idea for kids' bikes, as you're less likely to get an injured finger, and also for recreational bikesSpecifically, I'm thinking of my dad, who enjoys riding, likes having the option of gears, but dislikes getting covered in chain grease and doesn't necessarily clean and maintain his bike as often as his crazy daughter does.  An internally geared belt drive would give him the freedom to ride without needing to worry about a lot of these things.

I guess the biggest problem here is price.  The people that I feel would benefit the most from a belt driven bicycle are the people that generally don't want to spend too much money on a bike that will be ridden occasionally.  City commuters are a different group, but even still, something like a Trek District is still a bit high compared to what options are available on bikes with chains.  There's potential here, but it has a few years to go.  Belts may still be a bit of a novelty, but the success of the District and the increasing usage of belts in cyclocross looks promising. 

It really depends on what you want.  I'm a traditionalist - all of my bikes are double butted cromo, and it took me a while to switch over to indexed shifting.  That said though, I'm in love with the idea of a fixed gear belt driven bikeLiving by the ocean is wreaking some serious havoc on my drivetrain, and I find myself drooling over the Trek District more and more these days...

We'll see what happens with that.

2012 Distance Count: 126 Miles | 202.7 Kilometers

20120117

Beautiful Morning

I watched low hanging clouds drizzle rain over Malibu while the sun shone through the cracks in the sky. 

All these people in their cars have no idea what they're missing.

How lucky am I? 

2012 Distance Count: 119 Miles | 191.5 Kilometers

20120116

Some Oregon Love


Representing Oregon on my pannier.  

As good as the California cycling is, it still has a long way to go before it gets to the same fantastic level as Portland.  And hey, I love the rain.

And a shoutout to the kind jogger who yelled a a guy to get his dog out of the bike path.  I tip my theoretical hat to you!

2012 Distance Count: 112 Miles | 180.3 Kilometers

100 And Counting!

Just passed the 100 mile mark for this year!  Hopefully there will be a lot more where that came from.  

And on the car so far this year?  30 miles.  
Lets keep this up - here's to many more cloudy morning, foggy evening, oceanside commutes! 

2012 Distance Count: 105 Miles | 169 Kilometers

20120115

Sunday Sunday Sunday!

After a week of riding on a sandy trail next to the ocean, my bike needs a bit of love.  Sunday is Bike Maintenance Day, which usually involves a basic cleaning and minor tune up, but sometimes entails repacking bearings, changing tires, or swapping parts, depending on what needs to be done.  

Sadly, I've been working on a non-bike related project which has kept me fairly house bound this weekend, so I wasn't able to get out on any rides or do any bike photography.  I know, I know, it's terrible.  Once this project is done, I am going on a long ride, most likely involving a stop at Father's Office, crashing a bonfire on the beach, and a day out with good friends. 

Until then, I can do no more than continue my ranting and commuting.  

Belt drives are so sleek looking.  <3
I can also provide this lovely photo of a Trek District drivetrain taken in Chico last November.  Speaking of Districts...there will be more to come involving this crazy belt driven bicycle.  

2012 Distance Count: 98 Miles | 157.7 Kilometers

20120113

Fridays

Some days I don't ride to work.  I try to keep these days as few and far between as possible - if I need to carry a large (or food) item, torrential downpours that drown small children, etc.

Fridays are my bouldering day.  Bouldering is like rock climbing, only without the harness, and you're usually inverted, and you also usually get your ass kicked by these small, seemingly harmless colored rocks.  

I enjoy bouldering because it changes things up a bit.  I've been running and cycling for a long time, so my thighs are massive muscle machines that can break bones and my gastrocnemiuses could consume small animals.  It's nice to have something that actually works my upper body for a change, and requires a completely different mindset than cycling does.  Mostly, it makes me grateful that I am a good, in shape cyclist.  Bouldering humbles me and makes me grateful that I am a beast on a bike.

I don't ride to the bouldering gym because it involves going on one suicidally busy street during rush hour in LA to another suicidally busy street, then going into a rather terrible part of town.  After that, my hands and arms are usually too dead to do much, so gripping the handlebars and braking is out of the question.  Someday I'm going to figure out a solution to this.  

On that note, I hope everyone has a lovely weekend.  If it's unseasonably nice, go for a ride!  


2012 Mileage Count: 98

20120112

Velo Profile: Se7en

Se7ven is my commuter that I finished building this past July.  It's a Giant RS930 that I found at a Goodwill in sad, sad condition.  I mean, rubber cement in the bearings sad.  Most of the parts that were on it were stock, but someone had changed a few things.  Someone had loved it once.  
 
After I finally graduated from the role of Starving Student and entered the world of Being Employed, I was able to get the final parts I needed to finish this beast of a bike. At current, it has a full Shimano 600/Ultegra group, Campagnolo Victory Crono rims with DT spokes, a couple neat odds and ends, like the anodized midnight blue Cinelli stem, and some sexy carbon fiber fenders.  

This is also my first bike where I'm running tubular tires, which admittedly, I dig a whole lot more than clinchers.  Yes, even for commuting.  Yes, I am crazy. 


The frame is double butted cromo, and without any panniers it's a pretty light bike.  I was surprised at just how nimble it was.  And also at how fast I could get it to go.

In conclusion, I am in love with this bike.  And every time I ride it, I'm reminded of that. 

2012 Mileage Count: 98

Nudged

I would say that I got hit today, but saying "I got nudged" is much more accurate and sounds a lot less alarming than "I got hit."  I'm fine, and better yet, so is the bike, but I'm thinking it's time to invest in a helmet cam for good measure.  

To elaborate on what happened: I was in a sharrowed right lane in a residential area, near the start of my commute.  The speed limit is 30 mph, and I was maybe going 20 or so.  A guy in the left lane, who from here on out shall be referred to as Mr. Asswagon, came over into my lane and tapped, or nudged me.  Thankfully my bike is pretty nimble and I reacted by jerking away pretty quickly, reaching out and hitting his car with my fist whilst yelling "HEY!" as loud as I could.  Looking in the window, both driver and passenger were pointing and laughing at me.  Then they sped off, while simultaneously giving me the finger.

But why?

I'm inclined to think it had something to do with another rider.  I was passed by a fully kitted out carbon fiber racer guy running all the stop signs and cutting off cars, and generally being a dick.  Perhaps Mr. Asswagon decided to "get back" at the cycling community by taking out his anger on another cyclist.  Since, you know, we're all the same.

Or, perhaps he thought he knew me, and thought I was someone else.  I wear a pretty unique commuting uniform though, and also ride a fairly unique commuter.  But it's possible.

Or, Mr. Asswagon decided he wanted to harass the girl cycling to work who was obeying all rules of the road.  Sorry I wasn't keeping up with the 30 mph speed limit. 

Whether you're on a bike or in a car, don't be dick. 

Other than that, my commute was lovely. 

2012 Mileage Count: 91

20120111

Cycle Recycle

I'm not girly, by any means.  My awesome group of predominantly male friends sees me as one of the guys.   However, I do have a soft spot for things that are made from recycled goods, and things that are bicycle themed.  That said, I have to share this awesome bracelet my family got for me this past Christmas.

Everything looks better hanging off of a Miche crank.
This was made by the ever so awesome Cycle Recycle,  based out of my hometown in Sacramento.  Check them out, they make some cool things!  


2012 Mileage Count: 77

20120110

Arm Warmers

I used to have this amazing ability to not get cold.  It's something that I inherited from my mom, though she was always far more cold tolerant than I, in the sort of "let's have the windows open in February" kind of way.  

Being from Northern California, I was by no means a dive-naked-in-the-snow type of person, but I would regularly go running in thirty degree weather wearing at most a sports bra and shorts.  At night.  

Needless to say, when I moved to LA near the end of 2010, it was a bit of a culture shock.   These people, walking their tiny dogs on their Segways, were dressed as though they were going skiing, in their designer snow gear amidst the frigid 55 degree weather.  I could do no more than gawk in awe, in my shorts and sandals, while people pointed and stared, assuming I had to be on some sort of drug to be able to survive in such a hostile temperature.  Surely, surely they weren't that cold.  Surely this was a joke.  

And then something happened.  

Upon arriving home for a few weeks last November, I noticed something was amiss.  Something felt off, slightly out of key.  It was then I realized: I was cold.  I had adapted to the moderate temperatures of Southern California, and my superhero like abilities to always stay warm had diminished.  My family laughed at me as I sat curled up in a blanket and a sweatshirt, drinking hot tea and shivering by the fire as the temperature dropped to 45.  

So, it was with admitted defeat upon returning to work and riding in the cold mornings, that I realized that I needed arm warmers.  

First, I was skeptical.  Just because I am no longer the abominable snowman does not mean that I don't heat up within about two seconds of working out.  Second, I felt like they'd be distracting.  But I bit the bullet and bought some nice, white Pearl Izumi arm warmers with little reflective bits on them so cars would (hopefully) be less likely to plow me over.  

After the first ride, I wasn't so sure.  After the second ride, I was a little more sure.  Now that I've swallowed my pride and come to terms with the fact that yes, that is cold I'm feeling, I'm quite happy with them.  

Leg warmers though...I don't think I'm quite ready to commit to that just yet. 

2012 Mileage Count: 70

The Current Commute

I've become quite cynical in my old age, and with that, I tend to complain a lot.  Sometimes it's valid, and sometimes I'm just spewing off a rant to any who will listen (and those who don't want to) just to get it out in the open.  But if there's one thing I really can't rant or complain about, it's my current commute.  Sure, there was the cyclists without lights thing, but that happens everywhere.  My commute is fantastic: it's not short to the point where I feel like I didn't get a good ride in, and it's not long enough to seem daunting. 

Leaving in the mornings I leave my apartment and turn right onto a two lane sharrowed road, which I only have to share with my motorist bretheren for about a half mile, until I take a left directly onto the bike path.  There are two paths, one for cyclists and one for pedestrians, so most of the time I don't have to deal with pedestrians (but I'll rant about that one later) and get to keep a decent speed along a nicely maintained path that runs parallel to the ocean.  It's fairly quiet in the mornings, as most of the cyclists that share the path that early are commuters like myself.  After five miles of watching surfers and listening to the waves crash, I turn off the path onto the main road into the town where I work.

This is where it gets fun.  

I basically have a mile climb into town, after which I get dropped down a bit, then climb about another half mile before the final descent to my studio.  It's great in the mornings, as I get a decent flat to warm up before tackling the main hill.  This hill and I used to not get along so well.  We fought daily, but have since worked out our differences, and are slowly becoming friends.  It's not an awful hill, though according to MapMyRide it has areas of 6-12% grade all the way up, so maybe I'm wrong.  I'm also climbing it on a steel bike with panniers.  The point is, I get a nice climb out of it, and feel quite accomplished when I get to the top.  

Going through town I use the right lane of a two lane road, which is usually inhabited by parked cars, so the motorists rarely bother me (except for that one time.  And that other time) and I just have to watch out for doors.  I descend into industrial land, cross through one busy intersection, and I'm at work.  

Going home is actually quite different.  Granted, it's the same route, but everything is relative.  I have only one super steep climb that I do fairly early on in the ride back, and then it's literally all downhill from there.  I get to relax and enjoy a nice ride home, with the exception of the people I almost hit on the path because they're invisible.

Really, my only gripe is sand.  My poor drivetrain.


2012 Mileage Count: 63

20120109

Reflectors. Please.

I had a lovely ride home.  It's winter in Southern California, which means it's actually cool enough outside to ride without breaking a sweat (read: 50 degrees) and the bike path that I take for most of my commute is generally void of the general touristy crowd that tends to cluster on the path during sunnier times.  It was pleasant, quiet, peaceful.

Then I almost hit someone. Five someones, actually.

It's one thing to ride without lights.  It's another thing to ride without any sort of reflectors whilst wearing all black, on a trail that isn't lit, where many commuters are traveling at high speeds.  Thankfully, no one died (or even got hit, for that matter) though words were exchanged...or, words weren't so much exchanged as they were given.  Angrily.   I always feel like a grumpy old man out on rides.  "You needta getcher selves some lights, mmkay?  Damn kids!"  Probably this is what I'll sound like in fifty years or so, if I don't crash into a lightless bike ninja and die from the trauma before then.

And speaking of bike ninjas...holy crap, Yehuda Moon is back!!  

Finally, I have today's photo from Project 366, which I'm taking part of.  I stopped to pose my commuter, Se7ven, against a backdrop of a coffee shop, fountain, and the moon.  

 The gears make this considerably less hipster.
2012 Mileage Count: 56

So, this is a thing.

It was around the time I was meticulously scooping sand and other crud out of my rear deraileur for the fortieth time that I came to the conclusion: I think a lot. About lots of things, sure, but specifically bikes. Here I was, covered in grease, surrounded by tools, lovingly cleaning my commuter and thinking about how I couldn't wait to ride to work the next day, boy do I love this Shimano 600 Tri-Color group, I really need to get the Takhion to a welder and I can't wait to try out the command shifters that I have yet to mount on another bike I am building.

All at once.

So, here I am. Writing about it. I'm going to rant about my commute while keeping track of my miles and how many times I almost get killed every day, talk wistfully about the bikes I wish to own, post pictures of shiny bikes and parts that make me happy, and link to a news article or two. Or at least I will if I don't get distracted by the wheels I need to build.

EDIT: Please feel free to link back here, link to posts, or use any of my photos!  Just please give credit where credit is due.  

If I have linked to a photo that belongs to you and you'd like me to remove it, please let me know, and I'm sorry! 

Edit II:  Sometimes I sell things.  Sometimes I trade things.  Send me an e-mail if you're interested in either.  aeyoqen [at] gmail [dot] com.  

2012 Mileage Count: 49