Category Archives: Uncategorized

The passage of time

ImageI was talking with a friend the other day and he mentioned that he and his family went to see the dog breeder again.  This is their third visit to this breeder who has a litter of puppies that they are planing to adopt one from.  He mentioned that it will be another month before the actual adoption occurs, and it is very difficult for their young daughter.  For her waiting a month seems like a lifetime.  This got us to talking about how our perception of time changes as we grow older.

My rides for the last two mornings have gotten me to think about that conversation.  It seems like only yesterday that I was riding in the chilly morning, yet it was seven or eight months.  I have been so enjoying my routine that this year has seemed to pass in the blink of an eye!  It has been too long since I visited friends and done any camping (last winter).  Given the arrival of cooler temperatures, it is time to start planning my next trip.

I have recently finished building up my new touring bike, as shown in the recent post on the photo scavenger hunt, and have put about a hundred miles on it.  It is now up on my bike stand to get its final tune-up and prepare for an overnight tour to put it through its paces while carrying gear.  The rain earlier in the week gave me a chance to try out my new water proof panniers, Arkel Dolphins, that I will be using for tours now, instead of my prior use of my Arkel Shoppers for these short trips. 

These panniers are needed since I am planning on carrying camping and cooking equipment on these up coming trips, which I haven’t done before now.  After I have had a chance to use them and the campeur a little more I plan on posting a review for both items.

Today’s photo is from my library and this mornings clear skies and morning star made me think this would be a great illustration for today’s post.

The Photo Scavenger Hunt

Bike Friendly RIchardson posted a challenge for a photo scavenger hunt of 14 outdoor statues in Richardson.

You are invited to participate in Richardson’s first Ride And Seek, Photo Scavenger Hunt. Throughout the month of October, we are inviting and motivating folks to get out and ride their bikes, explore their neighborhoods and win prizes! This year’s theme will be “The Sculptures of Richardson”.

I found the idea to be a great motivator to get out and do a longer ride, which I haven’t been doing much for the last two years.  It also gave me a great opportunity to put my newly built up touring bike through its inaugural paces.  It would be much further than I have been typically riding (15-25 miles) since my round trip distance to Richardson is 25 miles by itself.  So I planned out a decent route to pick up all 14 statutes in a single trip.

I did have a route problem on a residential street, Dumont Dr, which was closed and impassible so the day required some on the go rerouting to avoid some roads I would like to avoid riding on.  Namely Coit and Beltline.  I did ride on Spring Valley to cross US 75 and it wasn’t particularly pleasant but it was doable.  I think Richardson could use some better pedestrian/bicycle crossings for the US 75 barrier.

Overall it was a great day, and I wish to really thank Bike Friendly Richardson for the idea and the challenge.  I think I will try to find some kind of similar scavenger hunt in Plano.  Though I am not really familiar with any outdoor statutes here.  Anyway, here are the requisite 14 photos of my bike and the sculptures

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And to top it off a screen capture of the southern part of the route I took between the statutes!

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Again, thanks for the great idea and experience BFR!  It was a great day!

Chasing Shadows

ImageIt is quiet and cool, almost cold, for an October morning in Plano. As I pedal down residential streets, I find myself doing something I never do at any other time of the day. I am racing my bicycle. This isn’t your typical bicycle race; there are no pelatons, no sprints, and really not much speed. It is a race between myself and my shadows.

I first noticed this play of light and shadow shortly after I started riding again as an adult a few years ago. I started riding in the pre-dawn hours to avoid the uncomfortable heat that is so prevalent in our summers. Many of the residential areas I ride through have various forms of street lighting. These lights create a unique pattern of shadows that I find very allegorical.

As you pass a street light your shadow accelerates past you, then as you approach the next light, this alter ego slowly fades away, only to reappear as you move past that next light. During these early morning hours it isn’t unusual, particularly as the weather grows colder, that my shadow is the only person I encounter on these early morning rides. I like it that way. The peace and solitude of these rides serve to alleviate any stresses and concerns that exist in my other life. In many ways, the shadow serves as an allegory for the person who is experiencing those vagaries of life.

No matter your reasons for owning and riding a bicycle, if you haven’t already had a race with yourself I urge you to give it a try. It doesn’t need to be about speed, or competition, but it is a chance to meet yourself and learn something.

How to prevent a problem by catching it when it is someone else’s responsibility!

For the last few months, my city (Plano, TX) has been performing some construction on a new trail connection.  They have contracted out the construction, and the contractors have been using fairly heavy equipment and cracking the existing trail as they drove over it.

I was on a business trip for a week, and when I returned I noticed on Sunday that they had repaved the damaged concrete trail.  Sounds great; however, as you can see in the following two pictures the contractor did a really poor job.  Rather than following the contour of the ground surface they levelled each slab piece, resulting in large vertical discrepancies (~ 1.5 inches) between adjacent slabs.

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ImageI noticed the problem, on my first loop around the park trail, but on the second I watched a young child crash her bike when her front wheel struck the discontinuity at an oblique angle.  Unfortunately I didn’t have my phone, which has an application to report such problems to the city.  My next ride on this trail was Tuesday early morning, so I made a point to take my phone.

On Tuesday, the problem was still there and it didn’t appear that anything was being done to correct the problem, so I took the above photos and reported them to the city using the “FixIt Plano” app.  I also commented that I had already seen the problem cause a small child to crash their bike.  Within a couple of hours (I reported it at 7am) I had a response that they were aware of the issue and that it was supposed to have barricades placed around it until it could be fixed.

I took another ride on Wednesday morning, and no barricades were in place.  I let the city know that the contractor had not complied yet.  I received a phone call letting me know that they were pursuing the issue.  I took another ride Wednesday evening and not only were barricades in place, the contractor had already torn up the bad concrete and was preparing to pour replacement slabs.

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The moral of the story is that even in areas where the city is not very responsive (which doesn’t apply to Plano), the best way to prevent a long term problem is to notice and report it when the work is still being performed by contractors (and before they have been paid for it) so that the city only has to say; “Fix it or you will not be paid!”  I fully expect the new concrete to be poured within 72 hours of my first reporting it!

UPDATE

I rode by this area on Thursday afternoon and noticed that they had already poured the new concrete for the path.  On Saturday morning, I noticed that the barricades were gone and people were using the path.

If you aren’t having fun, you should be doing something else

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I have spent a fair bit of time reading various bicycle related forums and blogs, and one thing has become eminently clear, most of those writing about cycling are angry.  The object of their anger varies greatly; however, they are still angry.

This really perplexes me.  I have found that riding has done wonders to relieve my own stress and anger.  While I spend a fair bit of time riding on the roads, I rarely encounter problem motorists–perhaps I simply don’t notice all of the things they do that seem to bother other cyclists.  A few unfortunate folks cycle as their only means of transportation due to lack of income and/or having their driving license revoked.  These are the only people who have an excuse for cycling and being angry.  For the rest of us, I offer the following wisdom; don’t do something like cycling if your not enjoying it.  You have choices.  If you aren’t happy with it, find something that does make you happy!

We should all try to stay in touch with the sheer joy that cycling first provided us when we first learned to ride as children.  Do you remember going out to ride for the sheer pleasure of riding?  Do you remember the sense of freedom it provided you?  Try to hold on to that.

An Introduction

Rebuilt Fuji Supreme all around transportation

A vintage steel framed bicycle built to be a general all around mode of transportation.  In my opinion, the above bike represents everything that bicycle should have if used for transportation.

Wet conditions

Even though, it doesn’t rain in Plano, TX all that often, I encounter puddles from sprinklers very often.  Fenders, are the perfect way to keep from developing the dreaded skunk stripe down one’s back, that comes with riding in wet conditions.  If you live in a desert climate, then this one may be optional.

Night and low light conditions

The bicycle is equipped with the standard passive illumination equipment required by law in the United States; front and rear, as well as wheel reflectors.  In addition it is equipped with a dynamo lighting system that provides plenty of light for riding at night as well as providing a daylight running system that makes the bicycle a little more visible when riding on the road system.

A decent battery based lighting system is also a possible choice; however, while less expensive, it requires that you prepare for any trip where you might need light.  At the very least this means keeping the batteries charged and making sure the trips will not be longer in adverse lighting conditions than you will need to be riding.  Also remember, that colder temperatures reduce the length of times the lights will work.

A little carrying capacity

A bicycle used for general transportation needs to have the ability to carry small items; small purchases, books, phone, camera, etc…  We are not talking about larger cargo capacity such as groceries and such; that requires a different style of bicycle.  A style, that can also be a day-to-day bike for recreational riding or the general transportation needs that this particular bike is designed for.  But any bike that is used for transportation needs to be able to carry some small items at the very least.

On this bike, that is handled by the Carradice saddle bag and the Arkel handlbar bag.  The saddle bag always carries a spare tube, minimal tool set and patch kit, a cycling rain poncho with helmet cover, and two locks (one mini U-lock and a cable lock). The bike also carries a frame pump (as opposed to a mini pump) for inflating repaired flats.  At the very least you should have some means of inflating such repairs, and the portable pump is the single best means of doing so.

This still leaves a fair bit of carrying space in the saddle bag, and the handle bar bag only carries a small pen light for emergency light if I need to fix a flat at night, so it is the primary place where I carry those small items.

Works with any shoes

A bicycle that is going to be used for general transportation needs to be able to use whatever shoes you need for the purpose of the ride.  Sneakers, dress shoes, etc…  You shouldn’t have a bike that requires special shoes and expect that you’ll want to use it for quick errands, etc…

Comfort

I personally find this bike with its less aggressive road style geometry and drop bars to be very comfortable.  Others may prefer a more upright posture or an even more aggressive posture.  Your personal comfort on the bike is paramount, if your going to be using as a means of transportation.

I found that I tried a number of different styles of bicycle, until I settled on the one shown here.  While I found more upright styles of bicycle comfortable for transportation, I didn’t find them as fun.  And for me that is the point of the bicycle, to have fun!

It is fun

And that really is the most important part of the general transportation bicycle, you enjoy riding it.  If you don’t, either find another bike or just drive!