Wednesday, August 30, 2017

In Which the Cool Sun Shines on my Birthday

Early sunshine on Boyson Trail on my birthday.

This morning, I had volunteered to watch a set of grandchildren to cover a gap between their mom leaving for training in Iowa City and their dad getting home from a night shift at work.

Which meant an early morning bike ride through the north end of Cedar Rapids, as well as Marion. I was a little worried, because some of the streets I would be on can get busy with commuting traffic—but it turns out all is pretty quiet at 6 a.m. It was semi dark when I went, and it was about 7:30 when I headed out to go to work.

Along the way, I rode on part of the Boyson Trail shortly after sunrise. It was my 59th birthday, and it was honestly not a bad way to spend it—getting to see grandkids in the morning, followed by a pretty, early bicycle ride.

This evening, my wife took me out to dinner. And I thought of a post-dinner bike ride, but it was getting a bit dark. And the bike I wanted us to ride is best used in the daylight, especially until we get used to it.

A tandem! And not just any tandem, a genuine, 40 something late 1970s panzer of a Schwinn tandem—heavy and tough and red and impractical and wonderful at the same time.

No photos yet, but sometime this weekend when we take it out for our first real team ride, I’ll try to post something.

It was, in short, a great biker birthday.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

In Which Bike Club Tours the Lake District

First Bike Club Ussie before first ride of the year Friday, Aug. 25.

Cedar Rapids has a thing about “districts.” It has a medical district, it plans a college district—and Friday, Bike Club checked out the water district.

For its first ride of the school year, the Mount Mercy University Bike Club ended up riding to Cedar Lake, along the Cedar River and around Prairie Park Fishery.

The ride got off to a bit of a late start. A young woman was pumping up tires when I got to Lundy, the building where the bikes are stored. Cali—the aforementioned woman—didn’t know where Marlon, club president, was. We checked bikes and used the one air pump to recharge a few tires, and about 4:20, Marlon showed up.

He had not been planning to attend this ride due to leg injury, but he changed his mind and brought along a new student.

We hit the road about 4:30. There was no clear destination in mind, but we sort of headed out to Cedar Lake by habit .The three students chatted, and I suggested we aim for the Prairie Park Fishery, which none of them had been to before.

Sure, they said, so we were off. The afternoon was partly cloudy, warm but not hot, and the biking weather was about ideal. They were going at old man pace, since they had me lead, but nobody complained. We rode to the turnoff to go by the Kick Stand and headed up towards St. Ludmilla, when we hit a snag in the form of street construction.

Two shots along Otis Road headed to Fishery. Cedar River looks very pretty on this fine late summer late afternoon.

We sneaked across. Don’t tell anybody.

The students seemed to be doing fine. We were actually flying along pretty well. I don’t have a computer on my commuting bike, but Map My Ride was recording speeds of around 11 or 12 miles an hour for most miles.

We circled Prairie Park Fishery, chatting about nothing as you do on a pleasant bike ride, and then headed back. We returned by a slightly different route—not cutting across the construction zone this time—and arrived back at MMU just a few minutes before 6. I checked my phone. We had pedaled just over 15 miles in 90 minutes, a distance that seemed to surprise our club president.

Prairie Park Fishery (above) and we have just passed Cedar Lake as we near campus (below).

Three students on ride one—not bad, and I hope that more advance notice and more word-of-mouth will bring out more next time.

The pleasant ride Friday was bookended by slightly different rides. It was sprinkling Thursday morning, but not raining hard, and rather than delay my wife’s departure, I assured here I was OK biking. That morning, I rode the “new” mountain bike (technically it’s by far the oldest bike I have, but it’s “new” because it was just newly repaired). I also wore my RAGBRAI rain poncho—thank you, Paulette, for getting that back to me. I got a bit damp, but not really wet. And then the day slowly turned pleasant, with sunshine peaking out in the afternoon.

But, by early evening, as I was ready to go home, it began to sprinkle again. I felt it was too warm to wear the poncho, so I rode without it, but again the rain was honestly not even a drizzle—just a few drops, and I arrived home only slightly damp.

Saturday was a similar day. The radar and forecast looked good, so after my wife and daughter and female grandkids left on shopping excursions, my grandsons and I took off on a ride. However, it was already sprinkling as I attached the Tag-A-Long to Clarence, so I was worried we would only ride a little and then have to take shelter at home.

But we were lucky. We got cool and were hit by a few drops, but it never really rained, and we were able to ride the Boyson Trail all the way to Hanna Park, ride back to Thomas Park for more play, and then meet the others—including two more grandsons—at Hanna Park. After lunch, my oldest granddaughter got to ride back to my house with me.

All in all, the past three days have been very nice for biking despite some cool, clouds and sprinkles.

Thursday, due to light rain, road the mountain bike to work.

Friday, August 18, 2017

In Which Three is Not Too Many

Got sprinkled on Wednesday night riding the "new" bike home. That's OK--the mountain bike is going to be, among other things, my "it could rain" bicycle ...
 Do you own one pair of shoes? Maybe, but most of us have more than one because we do more than one kind of locomotion. I have dress shoes, gardening shoes, flip flops and several pairs of sandals.

Biking is like that, to me. It’s not just going from one place to another, it’s going there for different reasons under different conditions. So I do not feel too guilty that I own and ride more than one bicycle.

Front and back wheels wobbly, dusty and dirty--the Fancy Beast was reborn this week. I'll have to tighten the seat, but that's not a big deal.

Me and my three bikes. Fancy Beast for unpaved trails and winter riding, Argent for RAGBRAI and weekend fun, Clarence for commuting and transporting grandchildren. Of course, I need them all. And maybe one more ...
Although for many years I did. When I started riding RAGBRAI, the only bike I had was a big heavy hybrid. Three years ago, after a difficult year on the road, my wife kindly allowed me to get a road bike, which is a much better transport for RAGBRAI.

Meanwhile, the hybrid bike wore out—and was replaced by a newer, and much nicer, hybrid.

The road bike is the summer, fast, fun, RAGBRAI bicycle. The hybrid has the back rack and bags for commuting, and the attachments for the toddler seat and Tag-a-long, so it’s the grandchild bus, too.

And this week, I got bicycle number three. It’s not a new bike at all, in fact it’s close to a decade old.

I’ve ridden it before and written about it in the past—calling it the “Fancy Beast” because I had a heavier mountain bicycle that I called “The Beast.”

The Beast is probably headed to “the farm” (that mythical place we tell our kids that animals go when they check out) soon, as it no longer make sense to keep it in running condition. But the black Raleigh mountain bike—The Fancy Beast—is another story. It was obtained originally as the Microsoft bicycle—my oldest son did an internship at the tech company, and they offered interns either a free bus pass or a bicycle, and he chose the bike.

The bike was passed on to a son-in-law who used it to commute in Ames for a while, before it came to me when the son-in-law moved to England.

But about a year ago, the back wheel got severely out of true. It seemed like it had a broken spoke, but I could never find it. And so it gathered dust in the garage. But despite it's age, it doesn't have tons of miles and seemed too good of a bike to toss aside, so I held on to it.

Until I broke a spoke on my commuting bicycle last week, which I took to Uptown Cranky Bike Shop in Marion for repair this week. I suggested to my wife that we could also take the black Raleigh in. She agreed, because occasionally we are short on loaner bicycles when we have visitors.

Thursday night. Happy to have Clarence back, too! Four grandchildren got rides.
I had no idea what the repair on the Fancy Beast would entail. I was worried I maybe would have to replace the wheel, and wasn’t sure what a mountain bike wheel for a 9-year-old or so Raleigh would cost. At a minimum, I figured the cost to have the wheel trued and bike tuned would be around $70 to $80, and I fully expected the bike to need a new drive train or other extensive, expensive repair.

When I rolled the bikes into the shop late Tuesday, the owner of the bike shop said the broken spoke would be repaired quickly and I could pick up that bike Wednesday morning. He wasn’t sure about the black bike, since he didn’t know what it needed.

Well, I called Wednesday morning. “Your Fuji (the commuting bike) is done, and the black Raleigh should be ready in about five minutes,” Mr. Cranky said.

I was a bit taken aback—I’m not used to such quick service. My wife and I drove to the bike shop.

“Your front wheel was also out of true, so I showed my daughter how to true a wheel,” the bike man said. “And everything was a bit sticky, so we lubricated all the cables, trued the back and front wheels and adjusted the brakes.”

And his son rang up the purchase. The bill was around $15. I was stunned. I expected fixing a spoke on the one bike alone would cost more than that in labor—let alone repairing both bicycles. I paid my bill in a bit of a haze.

I was going to ride a bike to campus after that, and I decided as a test to use the “new” mountain bike. It rides just fine, for a mountain bike, although I’ll have to tighten the seat, which slips slowly down as I ride.

But for $15, I’ll take it.

So now I have bike three—my "new" Sac and Fox trail bicycle, which is also now my winter beater bike. It’s comparatively slow and noisy—it’s not a fat tire bike, but has fatter tires than the hybrid or road bikes, and it makes a lot of tire noise on the road. It partly compensates for the lack of speed and noise by being incredibly comfortable—it’s the only bike I ride that has shock absorbers, and I did enjoy rolling over bumps in the pavement without feeling them in my rear.

So, welcome The Fancy Beast to my now trio of bikes. I don’t think you’ll get a bunch of miles—now that school is here, most of my riding will be on Clarence, the hybrid bike. But my wife and I plan to check out the Grant Wood Trail soon, and since it’s not paved, a mountain bike will come in handy.

Well, it would. What biker doesn’t need at least three bicycles? Or, as my oldest son once observed: How many bikes does a bicycle rider think they need? It’s always N plus one.

For now, however, I’m happy with three. And here, for your entertainment, are a few of the outtakes as I tried to use a camera timer to take the three-bike portrait:

Friday, August 11, 2017

In Which I Spoke Too Soon

Cedar Lake on Friday morning. Nice time for a bike ride.

I knew I had to be in the office for a while today, but thought it would be a good day to get some miles in.

Well, it was a good day, but things didn’t go exactly as planned. I packed a lunch, and because I was carrying a lunch box, decided to ride my commuting bike Clarence rather than riding the road bike Argent.

I turned on Map My Ride, and headed up the Brentwood Hill. It wasn’t on my way, but I figure doing the hill now and then even when I don’t have to is good exercise.

At the peak on Brentwood Drive (not the peak of the hill, just the highest point on that street), I turned right to head down into a cul de sac neighborhood, just so I could ride up the hill again. And when I was about 2/3 of the way up, just as I finally shifted into granny gear, there was a horrible grinding sounds.

Well, I thought I must had destroyed my derailleur. But, no, the shift was OK. I rode on, but the bike didn’t quite feel right. A mile down the road, I paid more attention to my rear wheel.

Which had a slight wobble. And I knew what that meant—sometimes, when a spoke snaps it doesn’t make much noise—but sometimes, apparently it does it more dramatically, with a loud grinding sound even this old hard-of-hearing biker can sense.

Well, I was still close to home, so I went there and swapped bikes. Riding Argent meant I had to put a backpack on to carry the lunch, but oh well. It was still a gorgeous day for a bike ride.

The only sad part of the story, really, is that a grandson who is coming home won’t be able to ride the toddler seat on my commuting bike. I didn’t get the bike in to the shop today, and am busy all day tomorrow, so it will be Tuesday afternoon before I can take it in. And being busy tomorrow means I'll miss the hoopla for opening the Cedar Valley Nature Trail new paved section to Center Point. Well, I've ridden it already and like it, so congratulations Linn County Trail Association, and I hope many others do show up. I'll be thinking of you.

Oh well. Guess on Monday and Tuesday, I’ll be wearing my backpack and riding the faster bike.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

In Which We Travel 16 Miles To See Trains

Grandson and I on 16-mile ride today. He's on Tag-A-Long seat (and no, we are not about to be hit--took photo as we were stopped at street light).

I’ve still struggling with an ear infection, which is not doing good things for my bike riding. The first round of antibiotics knocked it down briefly, but it came back, and now I’m on drug 2.0.

Let’s hope this one works. In the meantime, speak loudly to me as if I were an old, hard of hearing person. It’s generally true anyway, just more so now.

Still, even as time gets more constrained (it’s August and school is looming), I have had some nice rides. When we can, my wife and I have done some evening rides, including a recent one out to Lowe Park in Marion.

On ride earlier this week--Monday night, I think. My wife and I went out to Lowe Park. Sky looked pretty nice.

I had not been riding much this week, partly because we’ve hosted four grandchildren for consecutive overnights, and we’ve just been busy doing other things. Fun things, such as visiting a nearby gorge to view fossils, but not biking things.

Today, I had the chance to put in a few miles. While his sisters went to taekwondo lessons, my oldest grandson and I took Clarence out for a spin with the Tag-A-Long attached.

We pedaled down to Cedar Lake so he could view trains, and then rode over to Marion to meet his sisters and mother for lunch. In all, we rode about 16 miles. And later, I went to collect my bike, adding enough to fairly claim I rode about 20 miles today.

Two views from evening ride home Aug. 10. Buck on Lindale Trail, above. Sky as I turn from Boyson Trail to Lindale Trail, below.