Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bug Rescue Mission

It's fall, and the bugs can sometimes bug me on a ride home.

But, they can be merely interesting, too. Today when I got ready to ride my new bike home from Mount Mercy University, this was on my tire. As bike tires got, mine is of medium width. It's not a fat mountain bike tire, but not a skimpy little racer, either.

This was one big bug. For some reason, not a tall icky or threatening, however--are at least that's what I think.

I took a few photos and planned to rescue this rascal, but while I was putting on my rubber bands, he or she slipped away. I checked pretty carefully to make sure I would not crush it either elsewhere on the wheel or on the ground, and I think we probably both survived our encounter.

Well, writing through a crowd of gnats on the trail isn't very nice, but photographing Ms. Leaf Bug was. And that's one of the reasons to ride a bike--to really see and hear and be astonished by nature in a way that flying by it in a car just can't compare with.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Nice Day on the Trail

When the weather is especially nice and I'm in the right mood, I will use the Cedar Valley Trail to get home, which extends my ride by about 20 minutes or so.

Such was the day today--so warm that I took off my sweater before heading "Blackie" west to the trail and then heading north.

There were a fair number of people on the trail, and I was passed several times by other bikers. As far as I recall, none sounded a warning--and that's not good. A professor at Mount Mercy recently had a pretty serious collision on this very trail (although, he didn't forget to sound a warning, it's just that when he said "on your right," a pedestrian thought she should step to the right).

The riding conditions were near perfect, except for some inconvenient clouds of insects. I will not be too sad to see the first frost--time for those bugs to go.

When I got here home, traffic on C Avenue was backed up nearly to Blair's Ferry. According to the KGAN web site, there was a gas main lead. Neither KCRG nor The Gazette had any information on their sites.

Anyway, it was a good day to be on a bike--the sidewalk wasn't backed up. Got home in time to play with the grandkids a bit--all in all, a good ride and a good homecoming.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again

Well, bike blog pals, I'm again a rider.

On Saturday, a very rainy day, Audrey and I went bike shopping at Northtowne Bike Shop in Cedar Rapids.

For a while, we toyed with the idea of a tandem, an idea we may come back to in the future, but the real reason for our trip was that I had relented and agreed to Audrey's conditions--if I were willing to get rid of my two aged, old rust bucket bikes, she would buy me a new one.

It will count, at least, as my Christmas present, and she owes me naught for next Father's Day and the following birthday is iffy.

What bike did I choose? Well, brand meant little to me, it was more the style. The Trek I had been riding, a sort of Frankenbike from a frame Cate gave to Jon (who subsequently got a new bike from Microsoft during an internship there) and parts of a Trek I rode until the frame snapped, along with various other parts, was long past prime. I also own a 1974 Schwinn Continental, and toyed with the idea of seeing if a welder could fix the brace that held on the back brake.

But, if that weld failed: A) Could it be repaired? B) Could I trust the repair and C) If frame welds were starting to fail, it is a good idea to ride that bike?


The new one is a "Globe." It's black, it's sleek, in three days of riding it has been an odd pleasure.

A pleasure because it easily shaves 5 minutes off of my commute time--what had been a 25 to 30 minute ride has been, or was Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, a 20 to 25 minute ride. A pleasure because it has shock absorbers and a comfy seat--two things most bikes that I've owned have lacked.

Odd due to its configuration. Note the low triangle of it's frame. Note how far the seat is adjusted above that frame to fit my 60-inch vertical measure. The handlebars are a bit like the old one speed Schwinn my father bought me in 1966--the bike I rode until I bought my 1974 blue 10-speed. But a bit higher. In terms of ride, it reminds me a little bit of those weird banana bikes that were a strange fad of the early 1970s. My arms are straight forward, I'm sitting pretty high.

Well, I can get used to it. It's a bit like driving a Buick after having only owned Volkswagens. At my age, the comfort is OK. And the height may help me see and be seen, all good things.

Most of all, of course, as nice fall weather settles into Iowa, this is the perfect time of year to be back in the saddle.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Possible news on the bike front ...

Well, the attempt at chain repair was a disaster.

The Wally World kit came with two different types of chain link. the first, which was a closer match with the current chain, was unusable because I could not figure out how to secure it.

No matter, I though, there was a difference link with longer posts and a spring clip, and I'll just use that. Well, after a long and frustraing struggle with unfamiliar tools--during which I managed to break the new chain link tool--I got the chain together and was ready to resume biking.

But, when I tried it, the new link was too wide to fit through my rear derailer, and when I tried really hard, I think I damaged the derailer.

Bah. Humbug.

But, my wife suggested a compromise. Rather than mess with this bike, which is long in the tooth and failing, and rather than get my 35 year old Continential fixed, she said toss both old bikes and buy one new one.

Hmmm. I'm serously thinking this is a good deal. A bike usually lasts more than a decade, and even though I'll miss the old Schwinn, I admit that, even if Cate's relative can weld the back brake brace, it may be a frame waiting to fail anyway.

Well, it may be some time before I post on this bike blog again--I am sans wheels for now. New ones on the way, I think!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chain Hurry Up, Bring My Biker Back ....

Sing it to the tune of "Train Hurry Up," a 1960s bubblegum song.

I was headed to work on Monday, when my chain broke. I don't even remember a "snap," just one second I was peddaling along, the next I was peddaling faster but going slower.

Well, I have the hardware to fix it. I stayed at work late Sunday, until 11:30 p.m., and I guess I'm just lucky teh chain snapped Monday morning rather than Sunday night.

Sadly, it means I'm missing riding on a beautful, dry, sunny, warm but not hot early fall day in Iowa. I am not sure when I'll have time to fix the chain, and I'm not confident that I will do it quickly, but it will happen soon, I hope.

This is not the first time a bike has suddenly failed me. A couple of years ago, I had the frame of a bike fail when the welds that held the back wheel sheared. Last year, my 30-year-old Schwinn became unridable when the welds holding the back brake on snapped. I still have the Schwinn--I'm hoping to find a helpful welder to fix it--but, at the moment, I have no backup bike.

Oh well. A friend had a pretty serious bike accident last week when he ran into a pedestrian on the Cedar Valley trail. The way he tells it, he sounded the biker's typical verbal warning--usually "on your left," but sometimes "on your right," depending on relative positions--but the pedestrian stepped the wrong way.

And got nailed, hurting both herself and my biker friend. Ouch.

Well, it makes a broken chain seem like not such a bad deal, after all!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

CEMAR, Here It Comes

I rode to work today, a Saturday--getting to that point of the semester were being a professor is a 7-day job. Those who don't teach would look at teachers in June and say "what a lazy bunch," but few would want the 60-hour weeks in September.

Anyway, on the way home I headed east on Prairie Drive. I pass the Mount Mercy University Campus edge, pass north of Regis Middle School, and arrive at the old railroad right of way that the city wants to make into the CEMAR Trail.

When completed (in my lifetime?) the trail will run all the way from the Cedar Valley trail near Cedar Lake to the Boyson Trail in Marion. Some neighbors, however, object.

I don't expect much to come of the objections. The trail, planned for years, is on public land. And there always seems this "arc" of trail opposition when one is planned--but years later, most near trails have a positive experience. (To be fair, not all--trespassing and littering can be problems and policing and maintenance are valid issue--but still, trails have far more on the plus than the minus side for most neighbors.)

I hope the trail is completed soon. I would not mind some trees or bushes if a buffer helps, but honestly I don't get the attitude of people who wake up and suddenly find the city executing plans that have been in the works for a decade.

Monday, September 6, 2010

To ride or not to ride?

I gambled a couple of times last week--rode my bike on Wednesday and Thursday, when rain was possible.

On Wednesday, it did indeed rain--but, I was lucky because it rained mid-day and was dry by the time I commuted home.

Right now, due to Labor Day weekend, my bike is actually locked to a rack behind Warde Hall. I rode in on Friday, and Audrey and I left from campus to go see Nina in Omaha and Ben in Ames.

Both are doing well. Neither has a bike with them, which seems a shame for healthy young college kids. I took my Continental to college with me, and it was a good stress release.

Anyway, Audrey and I will got to the gym after Skyping Amanda (we hope) this morning. Some days, I would ride my bike up there, but not today. Soon, I hope!