Wednesday, November 27, 2013

In Which We Wonder At Chilled Mile Markers

Ben near the turnaround point of our chilly afternoon ride. He has borrowed his brother's bike, my sweatshirt and one of my old helmetts.

Almost 13 miles from ... where? These distance counters have been added to the trail fairly recently, I thin.k.

I drove to work Monday and Tuesday, due to snow. Today, I didn’t have to go to work, but by afternoon the outside sunshine was too tempting, and my son Ben and I decided to go for a bike ride.

Originally, I planned to cruise the network of trailing in our neighborhood—to head down Lindale Trail to Boyson Road Trail. But, then I recalled that we had left Ben’s bike at Katy’s house. That meant we would have to borrow Jon’s bike—not a big deal since it’s probably due for a ride—but I wasn’t sure what condition the trail would be in or how much snow would be on it.

So, we decided to head west to the Cedar River Trail instead.

It was a sunny, pleasant, but cool afternoon. We had a few dicey, icy spots to get through on residential streets that clearly had not been cleared after the snow. It made we wonder about the trail—but the trail had been cleared and was easier to cycle on than some of the streets we used to get there.

There was a bit of a wind, and the temperature was in the 20s. The more we rode, the more we cooled off. By the time we got to Cedar Lake, it wasn’t hard to come to a mutual agreement to turn around.

Along the way, we noticed frequent distance markers along the Cedar River Trail. We weren’t sure where they were numbered from, but since the numbers decreased as we headed south, I assume it’s from the south end of the trail where it meets the Hoover Trail.

We saw one other biker on the trail this afternoon. It was chilly, but on these sunny afternoons it’s not a bad place to be. So come on, Cedar Rapids! If they’re going to clear snow from this trail, the least we can do is put on our two pairs of socks, squeeze our helmets over our hoods and take to the trail.

And hope they clear the streets that lead us there.

Monday, November 25, 2013

In Which I Don’t Ride Due To White

An unnamed bike, probably owned by MMU, on the Lundy porch. I think the U stores bikes here for student use. This one makes me think of Brigid.

An arch, a flag and snow. No bikes in sight.

Warde Hall bike rack looking forlorn and barren. No Francis.

Around 8:30 a.m. Monday. I think it will snow.Click on image to see.

OK, blog pals, just in case you thought I was totally zany: No. I did not ride my bike on this snowy Monday morning. More that half an inch had fallen overnight, and there was plenty yet to come this morning.

So, I drove. Today is day one in which winter prevents this bike commuter from bicycling.

I suspect there will be some biking this week, although my biking days may be of a limited number. I only have two days to commute to MMU before the Thanksgiving Break. At least there isn’t a lot more snow in the forecast.

Friday, November 22, 2013

In Which I’m Crazy to Ride, But Not That Crazy

The end of the ride this morning. No spills, but a few chills.
The sidewalk this morning, with Francis. I don't think I was too crazy for riding, just a little crazy.
My ride Monday morning, crossing Dry Creek on C Avenue. I planned to write about the bare time, when you can see through the trees, but didn't get that post done. Below is almost the same view from this morning. Winter.

I had planned to drive today. I drove yesterday, due to a cold rain, and snow fell overnight. It was icy this morning on my front steps, and my personal rule is to avoid riding Francis on ice.

But, at a bit after 7 when I was getting ready to leave home, I looked out. The sun was trying to shine and I could see the sidewalk in front of my house, which looked, well, not that bad. So I decided to try it.

It was far less dramatic than it might have been. I ran into more icy sidewalks than I wanted to, but on a sidewalk I can just go really slow. The streets, which were the bulk of my ride, had far less ice or snow on them, probably because they were cleared by traffic while the snow was falling.

So the ride was a tad cool. Otherwise, it was kind of pretty. All the rides this week have been in the “bare times.” The trees have finally given it up and winter is here. Four months before we see happy green again.

But not four months of no biking, at least not until the snow sticks more than it did this morning.

By the way, this video is not new, but my sister, and biking buddy, Cate posted it on Facebook. She assumes I don’t ride my bike this way. Is she sure? (Yes, she is.)

Monday, November 18, 2013

In Which I Watch Horses and Cars and People and Bikes

My former student Bob Jameson posted a link to this video on Facebook. It’s a movie shot as a street car moves down Market Street in San Francisco in 1906 before the city is devastated by an earthquake.

I found it mesmerizing. Can you imagine a street in America today with such an eclectic crush of pedestrians, street cars, horses, carts, cars and bicycles? Yep, watch for it, an intrepid rider on a bike shows up in mid-clip. Watch as he has to zig and zag around cars, horses and walkers.

I note, as Bob did on Facebook, that drivers don’t seem more polite in 1906—rude drivers still cut you off even then. I guess, based on the pedestrian speed, that the advantage is that it’s all happening in slow motion.

Some other points I note:
  • Some of the zigging and zagging must be caused by all those horses. They don’t wear diapers.
  • It’s amazing how well people are dressed for everyday life—men in suits and hats, women in full dresses.
  • There are some crazy kids who play street car dodge or who hang on cars. Young people of 1906: What will the world come to?
  • Note that although horses are far more common, cars are common, too. And the steering wheel apparently can be anywhere in 1906. I wonder when the left side became “the” side for steering wheels? (You people in the UK who are raising your hands, pipe down. I’m talking about good old American streets, not some freaky streets on small islands, so there.)
  • It’s also interesting how busy and vibrant an American city downtown circa 1906 is. Of course, this is a very large city, but still. In Cedar Rapids today, you would be much safer biking downtown than in many other places because the traffic is typically so light. And no horses.
Well, CR biker is glad to be living in 2013 without horse manure, communicable diseases and other attributes of life in 1906. But I would like to go back in time just to see this scene in person. And yes, maybe to ride a bike through it, although that looks like it would be pretty exciting …

Saturday, November 16, 2013

In Which There’s A Bike I Don’t Want, But Is Fun To Watch

A Swiss architectural company has created this odd bicycle, a very large, but very impractical bike, about as tall as a one-story house, and, according to a description I read, with seven different “tiers” or layers that one could sit on.

Hmm. Some odd bikes I want. Not this one, really. It would be a bit hard to ride to MMU, and I bet it would not do well on the hill climb.

And it’s a bit weird to have this Swiss German voice singing about a bike that exists in Hanoi, Vietnam. But also fun, I think.

In Which The Moon Is Not Full, But Close

I did not take this photo, it's an October 2013 full moon image I downloaded from Wikimedia Commons. It was shot and posted by "LordToran."

We’re two days away from the full moon, kiddies, so the ride home tonight was not as light as it could have been, but it was also not very dark.

I had stayed on campus at Mount Mercy University to attend an art reception and then to see the play “Oedipus Tyrannous.” The play began at 7:30 and lasted for two hours, and I left campus around 9:45 p.m.

It was dark, but these days most of my afternoon commutes are in the dark. After all, it’s getting dark around 5 p.m. since the time change. I have lights on my bike, and I know the roads fairly well, so riding in the dark is not a big deal.

And the nearly full moon helps.

Still, biking around 10 p.m. is very different from biking around 5 p.m. The day has closed down, and the back streets I pass through area bit eerie. With the moon shining bright, you almost expect to hear a ghostly howl or see a werewolf padding down a dark alley.

I didn't spot any werewolves. I can pedal pretty fast, but don’t want to test the idea that the bike is either faster than the werewolf, or it’s not.

Tonight, it was just nice to get home. I enjoyed the art interlude, but I am enjoying the home interlude, too.

Monday, November 11, 2013

In Which You Know That I Rode Despite Snow

I think the two lovers outside Basile Hall are just trying to stay warm. Snowy statue around 3 p.m. today at Mount Mercy University campus. Note snow reflected in doors and windows.

Snow fell and the temperature plummeted this afternoon. It was a cloudy, cool fall this morning, and a brisk, white winter this afternoon.

And I rode. In the morning, I had no reason not to. I also knew that, although there was snow in the forecast, it was also scheduled to end my later afternoon, and since I wouldn't be taking off for home until after 7 p.m., I figured that the pavement would be dry by them.
One set of footprints in the snow...not mine. MMU campus, 3 p.m.

I figured correctly. I hadn't factored in the wind chill, however. The ride home was indeed quite cool, but I did have two pairs of socks on, and made it OK.

It’s supposed to be in the teens Tuesday morning. But it’s also supposed to be sunny. Will I ride? What do you think?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

In Which I Wonder If I Should See My Helmet

The Invisible Bicycle Helmet | Fredrik Gertten from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

Two Swedish women have invented an “invisible” bike helmet. Actually, it’s quite visible, it’s like a short, thick scarf. When an accident takes place, an airbag head covering pops out.

Is it a good idea? I’m not sure.

For one thing, a traditional helmet should be replaced when it is in an accident, but if it is “deployed” once, it’s not destroyed. The scarf airbag is a one-time use only.

The device also costs $600 and is not yet available in the U.S.

For now, I’ll keep wearing my old helmet. But I can see that the white hoodie balloon does have some advantages. I can only bike in temperatures where a thin hood, which I can wear under my helmet, keeps me warm enough—down to about 20 if it’s windy, down to about zero if the air is still. With the invisible helmet, I could wear a more regular winter hat and potentially overcome any temperature limit. Hooray?

And I would be happy with head protection that does not crush my hair. Not $600 happy, but happy.

My advice for now is to tough it out and wear the mushroom on your head. But keep tinkering and perfecting, Swedish headgear ladies.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

In Which The Duck Park Calls For A Bike Ride

The kind of day it was. Ducks, above, are not at the duck park, but on the stream that feeds into Cedar Lake. A maple, below, is decked out in bright colors at Noelridge Park.

I got the call Friday that my bike was fixed, and went to spring Francis from the shop this morning. I got home, with Francis in the back of a van because I still had not fixed the back tire which was flat. I was saving a few pennies because replacing both sets of derailleur controls, along with brake pads and pedals, was costly enough.

One of my daughters had arrived at my house in the meantime, with her two sons. The older son, a 2-year-old bundle of energy who lately has fallen in love with biking, announced both that he wanted to go to the “duck park” and that he wanted me to take him there on my bike.

Well, the bike was not ready, but he was willing to tag along with me and sit and watch me on the front porch while I swapped out the worn tire and tube. In 15 minutes, Francis was again assembled, and my grandson was ready for his duck park ride.

We didn't really know what the “duck park” was. We assumed it was Noelridge Park, because it has a pond and he has seen ducks there. So off we went, he sitting in front of me in the nice toddler seat I have on my bike. It was cool, but he had mittens, a sweater and a warm jacket on, and I was wearing several layers, so I think we were both OK.

He obviously enjoyed the ride, and chatted with me as we headed over to Noeldridge. When we got there, my wife and daughter and other grandson has just arrived via van. The older grandson who was on my bike informed me that this was not the duck park, but he also didn't seem to mind, and happily played for a while.

The ladies, who had not just ridden a bike to the park, found the breeze a bit too stiff. They suggested that they would like to go shopping. The older grandson faced a decision—go shopping with mom or ride back home with grandpa. Since the ladies were headed to a manly store that hands out free popcorn, shopping won out.

So I was on my own with a little time to kill. Rather than cycle home right away, I decided to head out on the Cedar River Trail. Since I didn't know if road construction in Hiawatha still blocked the trail, I decided to go south. I went as far as Cedar Lake, before deciding that it was time to head home. The shopping trip wouldn't last that long, and I didn't want to lose any play time.

Well, the day was glorious. According to media reports, we've passed the peak of fall colors in our area, but trust me, there are plenty of trees and bushes with bright colors. Today was the perfect day to see them—despite the brisk wind, it was a day bathed in perfect sunshine.

So thank you, grandson, for requesting a bike ride. It turned out to be the perfect day for it. Francis is back, and the new controls and brake pads are officially just fine, thank you. It sounds like tomorrow will be a similar day, so get out your bike and enjoyed a gorgeous fall ride, if you can.

Friday, November 1, 2013

In Which I Ride Twice As Fast Uphill

I parked Jon's bike inside by my office this morning. There was a slight chance of rain this afternoon, and it did sprinkle, so I'm glad I did. The bike ride to work and to home were both dry.
I got a call from the bike shop this afternoon. Francis is fixed, and I’ll pick my bike back up on Saturday.

In the meantime, I rode another bike. There was a chance of light afternoon rain today, but it was dry in the morning, and I wanted to ride. Jon left his bike with us while he is stationed in Paraguay in the Peace Corps, and I think it’s a good idea to ride his bike out about once a month or so. Sitting for two years could hurt it more than using it a bit—and since Francis was in the shop and it was dry this morning, I decided to ride New Blue, Jon’s swanky road bike.

Well, what a cloud of a bike. It felt like lifting a little baby after being around a toddler for a while. Parents will understand what I mean—your firstborn is a little bitty cute thing until your second child is born, and then the older kid is suddenly Godzilla compared to the newbie.

Such is Jon’s bike. It’s the baby, not Godzilla. But it is also one fast baby. I’m not used to it and didn't want to push it—I’m supposed to use it, not break it—so I didn't try to peddle very fast. But it’s a fast bike. I noticed heading up the hill to Mount Mercy this morning that I was traveling about 9 mph. On Francis, traveling up the same hill, I pedal about 5 mph.

In the afternoon, I took the slightly longer trial route home, and coasted down a slight incline near Garfield School. I glanced down at the speedometer on Jon’s bike and realized I was cruising at about 24 mph.

Occasionally, only rarely, I hit 20 mph on my commute on Francis. No way would I go well over 20 without peddling and without realizing it. (On a long country downhill during RAGBRAI, I often travel much faster on Francis, but that's a different kind of biking. I shudder to think how fast Jon's bike would have gone on some of those RAGBRAI hills this year.)

Anyway, Jon, your bike, New Blue, was feeling frisky today. Me, I felt a little weird while riding it, like an elephant on a tricycle because I was so hunched over. It’s the way Jon’s bike is built with its swept down, low handlebars. One does not sit upright, but rather leans way forward. And you have to lean even more to brake. Oddly enough, my back, which pains me most days, felt better than usual today. Maybe I need to do more hunched over biking.

There was only one bad incident while using Jon's bike today. In the morning, I was running with lights, but somehow, I managed to smack my hand into the headlight as I was biking on Eastern near the end of my commute, and the whole front light was snapped off the bike and clattered to the street—just as a car was passing by. Well, I must have been biking under my lucky Hungarian star (I would say luck of the Irish, but given their history I think that’s a ridiculous thing to say). The light clattered to the zone between the wheels of the auto, and the car passed over it without a hit. I was able to retrieve the headlight and put it back on, with no discernible damage done. Whew.

I took it a bit easy (if one can go 25 mph and call it easy). I was attentive to the street. The ride on New Blue is much rougher than Francis—Francis actually has front shock absorbers, and a springier seat. Plus, it’s the difference between 85 psi in the tires and 105. I didn't want to hit any bumps, both to preserve my butt, but also to ensure that the narrow road tires wouldn't get caught or damaged.

Somehow, it felt like a bit of magic that the whole bike didn't just disintegrate under my weight. But the ride was also a lot of fun. Like riding on a cloud.