Promoting the bicycling lifestyle in The Buckeye State
Category Archives: Commuting
Stanley has been making tools, beverage containers, and other food storage products since 1913. Traditionally targeted to the lunch-pail-carrying crowd, they’ve introduced a new line to seemingly appeal to the younger, hip set with recycled and recyclable materials, and bike bottle-cage friendliness.
I’ve used a “coffee ring” type of cage on my commuter bike for a couple of years now. Many of these are cheaply made, with a plastic handlebar clamp that slips when under the load of a full coffee mug. I found the Origin8 Joe-2-Go coffee cup holder works well, but you’ve still got to select your travel mug carefully–not too wide, not too narrow, to fit in the holder securely, and either no handle or a handle that is open on the bottom end. Even then, a good bump in the road can send the mug flying out of the holder.
The advantage of a bike bottle-cage friendly coffee mug such as the Stanley Nineteen13 eCycle Mug is that it’s held securely in the cage just like a standard water bottle. It doesn’t require a special type of cage, so it can be easily moved from one bike to another. Like any thermal-type mug, it keeps the hot stuff hot and the cold stuff cold better than a typical plastic bottle.
I received one of these mugs as a Christmas gift, and took advantage of the free hour I had between errands today to test it out. I filled it up with some fresh hot java and rode with it on the Salsa Fargo up to Solon to visit for a bit with Brent while he was at work.
As advertised, the eCycle mug stayed put in my bottle cage, even after a couple of curb-hops. The lid stayed securely closed with no leakage. I enjoyed the still-hot beverage when I arrived in Solon.
The eCycle mug holds 16 ounces. The moving parts of the leak-proof spout can be disassembled for a full cleaning (which, if you’re a typical dude like me, will probably happen about twice a year). Everything is microwave and dishwasher safe. It’s also got a loop that would let you clip it to a belt loop or backpack strap or the like. My only complaint is that the mug is too tall to fit and stand on its own in a Keurig single-serving coffee brewer, but that’s the case with almost all of my travel mugs.
In short, if you’re looking for an easy and secure way to enjoy coffee during your commute or other bike ride, the Stanley Nineteen13 eCycle Mug fits the bill, for about $15. Where can you buy it? I have not seen any bike shop or other store that has them in stock, but just about any local bike shop can order them for you, because they can be obtained through Quality Bicycle Products, one of the largest bike accessories distributors that most shops deal with.
My scheduled day off from work today aligned with the unseasonably warm weather we’ve had in the past week, so I decided it was a perfect time to head out on the Salsa Fargo for my first “big” ride of the new year. The forecast called for it to break 50 degrees; I don’t think it got that warm, only around the mid- to upper-40s, but it was sunny, and with the right combination of clothing, I had a pleasant and comfortable ride.
I headed out towards Aurora to pick up one of my favorite routes, Pioneer Trail to Garrettsville. There was still a thin glaze of ice on the surface of Aurora Lake.
I had recently stripped the Fargo out of full touring mode, removing the fenders and racks to start experimenting with “light ‘n fast” touring setups. I wanted to keep the road spray off, though, so I threw on some clip-on fenders–the Headland BackSlide on the seatpost, and the Topeak Defender FX up front. The roads were all but bone dry, though, so I would have been fine without the fenders today.
This was my first time trying out my new Revelate Designs Tangle Frame Bag. My size medium Fargo frame required the Small size Tangle bag, but the bag still doesn’t leave room for bottle cages on the down tube or seat tube. Fortunately, the bottle cage mounts on the Fargo fork took up the slack.
The Tangle bag worked great doing double-duty, taking the place of both my seat bag and my handlebar bag. I was able to fit all of the usual items–spare tube, tire levers, patch kit, multi-tool (all from the seat bag), plus wallet and mobile phone. I also squeezed in a pair of wool liner gloves, in case it warmed up enough that the heavier fleece gloves that I started out with became too much.
I stopped into Miller’s Family Restaurant in Garrettsville and dispatched their stuffed pancake special, along with a fine cup of diner-caliber coffee. I headed straight back west on State Route 82 to Hiram, and continued out of Hiram.
I originally planned to stay on Route 82 all the way back to Twinsburg, but as I got to the edge of Hiram, I passed up Alpha Road on my right. I had recalled passing by this road many times, both by bike and by car, but had never been on it, so I decided to check it out. The pavement was a slightly rough chip and seal surface, but the fat tires on the Fargo made that no problem. There was a slight climb at the start, and then I was rewarded with a long, straight descent before the road ended in the village of Hiram Rapids. A left turn onto Winchell Road put me on course back towards Aurora. I’ll have to keep this little connector road in mind when putting together future routes.
I tried another recently-acquired product today. I had been searching for a good pair of winter commuting pants. I usually wear a pair of wool tights (SmartWool) under a pair of Endura Gridlock waterproof pants. This works great when it’s raining or otherwise really nasty, but any waterproof overpants tend to make me overheat and feel a little too clammy on those dry and cold-but-not-too-cold days. Plus I wanted some kind of one-piece system for my legs, something lower maintenance and easier to get on and off than a two-layer system.
I figured a pant made out of a softshell material would fit the bill. The softshell would give warmth and enough water resistance during snow and light rains. I know it won’t keep me dry in a full-on downpour, but what does?
I was intrigued by the Showers Pass Hybrid Zip-Off Pants, but decided against them, although I foresee them being added to my cycling wardrobe some time in the future. I finally settled on the Pearl Izumi Infinity Softshell Pants. These are actually a running tight, with a more loose fit compared to a cycling tight, which is what I wanted, to give me a more casual look for errands and coffee stops during commutes, plus provide the quicker and easier on-off that I was looking for. These running tights provide another feature not typically found on cycling tights, namely pockets, which I wanted for quick access to items such as keys and lip balm. The Infinity pants have two full-size hand pockets on the sides, with zippers for security, and a small zippered key pocket on the middle of the back. The leg openings have a full cut, but there are snaps on the sides to cinch them down to minimize flapping while running, or in my case, to keep them out of my chainrings.
I bought the pants in a Large size, which probably have more room than I need; I probably could have gotten away with a Medium, but I wanted to make sure the pants had enough length to still give me full ankle coverage while in the saddle. They aren’t too large; the drawstring waist keeps them hiked up securely. When they arrived in the mail at work, I tried them on immediately, and one of my co-workers remarked that they look like they’d make great comfortable lounge pants, which I think they would.
The Infinity pants worked great over the course of the 49.5-mile ride today. That says a lot, given that many non-cycling clothing items feel fine during short commutes and errand rides, but don’t hold up their comfort level over the course of a long “serious” ride. Even though the pants have a seam through the middle of the crotch, with my regular cycling shorts underneath, the seam didn’t have any negative impact on that sensitive area.
My only complaint about the Pearl Izumi Infinity Softshell pants are that they were a little too warm for today’s conditions, but that’s a good thing. I won’t dare to complain about today’s spring-like weather, and I bought the pants with the intention of wearing them in colder weather, say, 40 degrees and lower.
I’ve just completed putting together the latest addition to my bicycle fleet, a Salsa Fargo. What sort of bike is this? Well, as Salsa puts it, it’s “a disc brake only, drop bar mountain bike designed for off-road touring.”
What does that really mean, and why would somebody want such a beast? The design of the Fargo offers solutions to many of the challenges presented by the requirements off off-road touring. If you’re touring, that means long distances covered over several consecutive days. Drop bars provide the benefit of having multiple hand positions to help keep you from getting fatigued during all those miles. If you tried to put a drop bar on a standard mountain bike, it would be way too low. The Fargo geometry puts you in about the same position while riding in the drops as you would be on a regular mountain bike with a flat handlebar.
As a mountain bike, the Fargo uses 29er wheels and tires (the same 700C rim size as most road bikes). It comes with a rigid steel fork, but you can swap it out for a standard 29er-compatible suspension fork with 80mm of travel.
Satisfying the touring bike requirements, the Fargo has all of the eyelets you need and more for mounting front and rear cargo racks and fenders. The rear disc brake mounts are located on the chainstay, rather than the seatstay, so you can use just about any standard rear rack without the need for contortions and special hardware. And the frame has not two, not three, but count ‘em, five water bottle mounts: one on the seat tube, one on the top of the downtube, one on the bottom of the down tube, and one on each fork leg. The ones on the fork legs and on the top of the downtube accept either a standard bottle cage, or Salsa’s Anything Cage, which has a strap to let you carry a standard water bottle, large Nalgene-type water bottles, fuel bottle, lightweight sleeping bag or pad, or, as the name implies, just about anything.
So, about this time you’re probably saying, “Enough talk; let’s see the dang bike!” Here ya go:
I built the bike up with some parts I had around as well as robbed off of a couple of my other bikes. I chose to use bar-end shifters, because I like the idea of their reliability and serviceability in touring situations.
The handlebar is the Salsa Woodchipper, which was more or less designed specifically for use on the Fargo. The drops are shallow and have a very wide flare-out.
The only minor issue I came across during the build process was hooking up the brake cable to the rear disc brake caliper. With the chainstay-mounted brake, the seatstay ends up running just a centimeter or so over the caliper, making it nearly impossible to get an allen wrench on the anchor bolt for the brake cable. I managed to get it tight enough using a ball-end wrench. The ideal solution would be to swap out the allen-head anchor bolt with a standard hex-head bolt, so you could get to it more easily with a crescent wrench.
My toughest decision was what crankset to use. I decided to go with a standard mountain triple with 22/32/44-tooth chainrings. From past experience with other mountain bikes, the 32T middle ring, coupled with an 11-34 cassette, is sufficient to clear 95% of the singletrack that I ride on, with only occasionally having to drop down into the 22T granny gear, and I didn’t want to give up that same benefit on this bike. My fear, however, is that this setup will feel anemic on the road. I have a spare 26/36/48 touring crankset that I’ll probably swap on at some point in the future, but I’ll stick with what’s on there for now until I have a chance to test it out. Looking ahead, I suspect that my ideal gearing setup for this bike will be the touring crankset and one of those new 11-36 mountain cassettes.
There may be another thought be occurring to you about now; the Fargo, with its off-road burliness, its road-like drop handlebar and 700C wheels, and cargo-friendliness–could it be the only bike a person might ever need to buy? Shouldn’t it work just as well in any conditions by simply choosing an appropriate tire type? Could it be your road bike, mountain bike, on-road touring bike, off-road touring bike, cyclocross bike, gravel-grinder racer, rail-trail cruiser, grocery-getter, and more? Is it, dare I say, a true “hybrid” in every sense of the word? That is the question that I hope to answer as this series of reviews continues. I’ll be putting the Salsa Fargo through its paces in all of these conditions, comparing head-to-head against other bikes when practical, and reporting my thoughts here.
A big shout-out goes to Brent and my other friends at Solon Bicycle for procuring the Salsa Fargo frameset for me. Thanks! I chose to go with a Medium/18-inch frame. According to Salsa’s sizing guidelines, my height overlapped the recommended ranges for the Medium and Large frames. Sight unseen, I probably would have chosen the large, but fortunately, Solon Bicycle had a couple of complete Fargos in stock that I was able to test-ride before ordering, and I found that I liked the feel of the Medium better, and it gave me more standover clearance that I will want when riding off-road. As pictured above (except without the seat bag), the bike weighs in at 27.4 pounds. That will vary, of course, with your component selection.
My first “real” ride on the Fargo was my commute to work yesterday. Before heading out, I installed my favorite rear cargo rack, the Topeak MTX Explorer. As expected, it went on without a hitch, and I was able to use a matching Topeak MTX trunk bag to haul my lunch and change of clothes.
My usual route to work is all pavement, but I took a slight detour on what is known as the Old Hickory Trail, which runs through the neighborhood just next to mine. This multi-use path is, I think, a little rough for the average bike path rider; I’ve seen hikers, joggers, and dog-walkers using it, but I don’t recall ever seeing another cyclist there. It’s got some climbs that are a little steep, some patches of rough gravel, and a few rutted sections from the wash-outs caused by the rainy spring we’ve had in these parts. I figured it would be the perfect introduction for testing the Fargo’s versatility.
Currently, I’m using Kenda Small Block Eight tires, just because it was a choice of either these or the other 29er tires I happen to have at the moment, the CST Caballero. The Small Block 8s are a good choice for smooth, dry singletrack, so I figured they’d give me enough hookup on the Old Hickory Trail, without slowing me down too much on the pavement. I usually run them around 37psi for off-road use, but I went up to about 43psi, just so, again, I wouldn’t feel totally bogged down on the road.
The Fargo felt as good as I’d hoped on the trail. The maneuvering felt confident; I was able to lean into the curves at speed, and the fat tires grabbed the gravel and held their place in the dirt. I could bunny-hop the ruts. Basically, the bike felt snappy when it needed it to, but long, low, and stable when I wanted it to.
Out on the road, the gearing took some getting used to, as I expected, but once I settled in realizing that I should just keep it in my big chainring the whole time, it wasn’t too bad. The tires weren’t ideal, again as expected, but neither of these two issues is the fault of the bike itself. I was just as happy with the overall fit and feel of the ride on the road as I was on the trail.
When riding in the drops, the Fargo’s upright geometry gives me the feeling that I’m “hovering” over the front of the bike, with my face just above the stem and handlebar, more so than on a traditional drop-bar road bike. This is not necessarily a bad thing; just a different feeling to get used to. It’s as if the cockpit of the bike rises up to meet you.
The moving time for my commute was just under an hour, which is typical for any of the other bikes that I’ve used to commute. So, check #1; the Fargo makes a darn fine commuter bike.
Today, Brent and I took a ride from my place up to Mentor Headlands Beach State Park. For this all-road excursion, I took the rear rack back off, pumped the tires up to 60psi, and just strapped on a basic handlebar bag to hold my wallet, keys, and phone. Brent was riding his new Salsa Vaya, so it was a “Tour de Salsa.”
The route took us through a construction zone, which involved about 100 yards of riding on dirt. Another side road later on turned into a gravel and pothole minefield, so I got more unexpected testing of the Fargo’s all-terrain versatility, and was glad again that the fat tires handled it with ease. I did feel like I was struggling at times to keep up with Brent and the more pure road-worthiness of his Vaya. I’ll be anxious to swap on some slick tires later to better test the Fargo’s pavement skills. Still, I was comfortable for the whole 41 miles of the ride.
I have one final observation after two days of mostly on-road riding of the Fargo. I’ve found that with the Fargo geometry and the Woodchipper handlebar, I spend much more time in the drops compared to a regular road bike. With traditional drop handlebars, most people, including myself, probably spend about 70% of the time on the hoods and 30% in the drops. On the Fargo, I spent about 80% in the drops and 20% on the hoods. This felt natural, though, and I think that’s how it’s meant to be. The difference was even more noticeable while climbing. On low to moderate grades, I found it more natural to stay in the drops; only on the steepest grades did I switch up to climbing on the hoods.
The makers of the Donkey Boxx bicycle pannier sent a free sample to where I work, so I decided to give it a try during my daily commute for a couple of days.
What is the Donkey Boxx? It’s a hard-sided pannier meant to be used with front or rear cargo racks, just like a standard pannier bag. The designers were inspired by the need to carry tomatoes and other produce home from their local farmer’s market without them getting bruised and jostled around as they would in a soft-sided bike bag.
The Donkey Boxx is targeted at the commuter or bike tourist who is looking for a no-frills pannier that is simple to use, and does not attract the attention of theives with a flashy expensive outdoor gear look.
Here it is in action on my Surly Long Haul Trucker:
It works equally well on either the left or right side; if you want to use them on both sides, you’ll have to buy two, as they are sold as a single box.
The Donkey Boxx is made in the USA out of 80% recycled corrugated plastic. This is the same plastic that is used in those crates used by the US Postal Service, and found in corporate mailrooms all over the place. The plastic material itself is waterproof, but the Boxx has holes in the bottom and along the edges for drainage and ventilation. If you want to make the box as close to waterproof as possible, they suggest covering the holes with packing tape.
The Donkey Boxx comes with a set of zip ties for installation, reflective stickers, and a strip of velcro that is used to hold the fold-up lid shut. Installation was about as simple as you can get; just wrap two of the zip ties around the top edge, and one around the back near the bottom edge. Trim the ends off the the zip ties, and you’re good to go.
The instructions provide tips for how to install the Donkey Boxx to avoid having heel strike problems. They even provide a unique measurement gauge to help you with this. One end of the gauge has a hook that attaches to your pedal spindle, and the other end has hash marks representing a range of shoe sizes. With the gauge hooked to your pedal, all you have to do is make sure that the Donkey Boxx is positioned so that the front edge is behind the marking for your shoe size.
With the long chain stays of the Long Haul Trucker, this was not an issue for me; I could be wearing a size 16 and still not be even close to having a problem. Regardless of your bike or shoe size, I’d suggest just positioning the Donkey Boxx as far back as possible on your rack. The only suggestion I would make for improvement would be to print the shoe size marks on both sides of the clearance gauge to make it easier for folks to size up the Donkey Boxx position on either side of their bike.
If you want to use a rack-top bag in conjunction with the Donkey Box, that’s not a problem. Mine worked fine, even with the Topeak MTX rack/bag system:
The Donkey Boxx holds 4.2 US gallons (dry); that’s 1,120 cubic inches or 1.83 liters. I carried my windbreaker, change of clothes, and lunch, and had more than plenty of room to spare:
A reusable grocery bag will fit inside, but the bottom is a bit narrow, so you’ll have to mash the bottom of the bag together a bit, but it works otherwise:
My conclusion regarding the Donkey Boxx is that it works exactly as intended. If you’re looking for a low-cost cargo carrier that you can load up and knock around without worrying about it getting ripped or ripped off, then the Donkey Boxx is for you. If you need something that you can detach and take along with you, then it won’t work well, as the installation is semi-permanent using zip ties. If you do need to remove the Donkey Boxx, you have to cut the zip ties. That’s not a major problem if you’re only doing this occasionally, since extra zip ties are readily available at your local hardware store.
The only problem I had was that I would occasionally knock the box against doorways as I carried my bike in and out. That’s not really a fault with the Donkey Box itself; that’s just a matter of getting used to the fact that you’ve got a nice, big solid box attached to your bike.
The Donkey Box comes only in the white color shown; the designers are considering offering other colors in the future. The plastic surface is smooth and friendly to user-customization with stickers.
Check with your local bicycle shop for availability of the Donkey Boxx. Suggested retail price is $28.00 each. You can also order online (as well as find more information, including installation tips and frequently asked questions) at www.donkeyboxx.com.
Now that my test period of the Donkey Boxx is complete, I am donating it to a worthy successor. If you’d like to inherit my Donkey Boxx to give it a try, I’ll give it to the first person that requests via the Contact page. Provide your name and mailing address, and I’ll get back to you with the shipping fee that you’ll need to reimburse to me before I send you the box. If you are local to Northeast Ohio, we can make arrangements for you to pick it up in person instead.
UPDATE 09/17/2011: The Donkey Boxx has been claimed; congratulations to Rocky Conly of Austin, Texas. Check back later for a report of his experiences using the Donkey Boxx.
Last Friday, May 20 was Bike To Work Day around the world. I happened to have the day off that day, so I decided to take a ride up to downtown Cleveland to check out the city’s official Bike To Work Day celebration.
I have ridden through and around the various roads and streets in the Cleveland area over the years, but I had never made the trip by bike from my home into the city. I did a quick check on Google Maps with Biking Directions the day before, and it did not seem nearly as long or as complicated as I expected.
I left home at 6:00am early in the morning. A thick fog covered the region, making visibility a little sketchy out on the roads, and requiring frequent wiping of my glasses, but otherwise, the weather was quite agreeable.
I stopped a few miles into the ride to meet a friend, and the two of us made our way into Cleveland from his house. Most of the route involved just following Miles Road west to Broadway Avenue, and then Broadway all the way into the city. I saw a few neighborhoods that I have never had the pleasure of visiting before, some of which were what some people might call a little “sketchy,” but at the 7:00-8:00am hour, they were nothing to worry about, even for a couple of middle-aged suburban white guys.
The fog burned off about halfway through the route, and the last few miles provided a new and spectacular view of the downtown Cleveland skyline. We arrived at the festivities, located near the Cleveland Bike Rack, the new bike commuter station, located just behind Quicken Loans Arena. The Bike Rack and event co-organizer ClevelandBikes had hoped to provided tours of the new facility, but the completion and opening were delayed. But, we were able to peek into the windows and see the rows of multi-level bike racks and rental lockers that will be available.
We enjoyed some coffee and snacks provided at the event, chatted with some other attendees, and checked out the other bikes. Then, we headed over to the Tremont neighborhood to get some breakfast at Grumpy’s Cafe. After enjoying some delicious pancakes, instead of re-tracing our original route back to downtown and home, we just dropped down to the end of W. 14th Street and hopped on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail through the Steelyard Commons shopping plaza. At the end of the plaza, we took the Jennings Road/Harvard Road connection to get back on the Towpath proper, until we jumped off the Towpath and onto Alexander Road, which led us back to our respective home neighborhoods.
The long-awaited arrival of spring weather in Ohio has been accompanied by several recent articles in the news that have given many suggestions and encouragement for cyclists to get out and ride. Here are just a few.
A Mansfield News Journal columnist talks up his favorite bike trails in the Central and North-Central regions: http://bit.ly/ie6NsY
A Dayton Daily News story highlights the many bike trails in the Miami Valley region: http://bit.ly/gWu0p0
The Dayton Business Journal notes how the availability of trails and other facilities has made bike commuting a popular and viable option for many in the city: http://bit.ly/gAVD6U
An internal Defense Department article describes the daily bicycle commuting regimen of one of their Cleveland staff: http://bit.ly/hbF5J5
The Plain Dealer of Cleveland notes how it was likely the good weather, and not so much the continued availability of park staff, that brought cyclists and other trail users out in Cuyahoga Valley National Park gets its day in the sun after federal budget crisis solved: http://bit.ly/icKHHl
Hopefully, you’ve heard about this already, because if you didn’t start yesterday, it’s too late to join the worldwide movement and sign up to ride every day for 30 days! Why? Just to prove you can! To motivate yourself to ride more this year! To motivate your friends and neighbors to ride more! Just for fun!
All you have to do is ride your bike every day in April. It doesn’t matter how much you ride each day–do a short spin around the block just for the sake of riding! If you can ride to work or school, do a long training ride or group ride, all the better!
Sign up to let the world know that you’re in: just go towww.30daysofbiking.com and fill out the online form. If you use Twitter or other social media, post daily updates on your daily biking experiences. Use the hashtag #30daysofbiking to automatically include your updates in the worldwide feed! Also, see the 30 Days of Biking page on Facebook!
Yesterday, I got started in the spirit of “around the block just for the sake of riding” by taking a short break during work to test-ride the Raleigh XXIX singlespeed mountain bike with belt drive. Today, I took a road loop on the Surly Cross-Check around Twinsburg, Aurora, and Bainbridge Township, for a total of 26.5 miles. I plan to ride to work tomorrow, so I’m off to a good start on the 30 days.
I did an indoor trainer session on Tuesday of this week, and planned to get another one in Thursday morning. When Thursday morning came around, the bed just felt too warm and cozy, so I decided to put off the trainer session until Friday.
Thursday evening, I noticed that the weather forecast was looking pretty good for Friday, wither temperatures expected in the low 50’s, so instead of getting on the trainer, I thought it would be a good day to start getting back in the habit of riding to work.
Come Friday morning, that 6:30am inertia starting feeling hard to overcome again, both when it came to riding to work and getting on the trainer. But, I figured taking a real ride outside was the lesser of two evils, so I got my bike, riding gear, and change of clothes organized. As soon as I headed down the driveway, I was very glad I made the decision. The sun was shining, and the air was crisp and cool, but not too cool. The snow and ice had pretty much all melted from the sides of the roads, as well as on the short stretch of bike path that I take out of my neighborhood. The only real inconvenience was the layer of silt and pebbles that collects on the sides of the roads during the winter.
On my way down Route 91, it occurred to me that had I done the hour-long workout on the trainer, then I would have spent a half-hour driving to work, then another half-hour driving home from work. Instead, I was spending an hour riding to work, and an hour riding home from work–two hours total in either case, plus I was getting the added benefit of double the amount of exercise time.
During the day at work, several people commented that it was supposed to cool off considerable by the evening. Since I ended up being actually a little too warm during the morning ride in, I figured I was okay; I’d either be dressed just right or just a little cold. In the end, the temperature during my ride home was a couple degrees higher compared to the morning. It was pretty windy, though, but I was lucky enough to have the wind in my back during the first half of my ride east on Route 303. When I made the turn north on Route 91, the crosswinds knocked me around a bit, but nothing too terrible.
I was surprised when I actually made it home during the last remnants of daylight, another encouraging sign that true spring weather is just around the corner.
Last night, while many throughout Ohio and around the world were commemorating cyclists who have been injured or killed on public roads with the Ride of Silence, I was doing my usual ride home from work. I got rolling early enough that I was thinking if I hustled, I might even make it home before dark. The ride turned a little less than the usual one when, about three and a half miles in, I got a flat tire.
I’ve had my share of flat tires while on group rides, tours, and races, but this was my first (but inevitable) flat that I’ve suffered while commuting. While I was on the side of the road working on getting my wheel off, somebody in one of the cars going by yelled, “Asshole!” out the window. Not sure what prompted that, but whatever. Fortunately, all of my emergency repair items worked as they should, and I was rolling again in ten or fifteen minutes. I don’t write this blog to hawk products, but in case you were curious, in addition to a spare tube, the repair items I carry are the Topeak Road Morph G pump and Topeak Shuttle Lever LS tire levers. So much for beating the dark, though.
As I got closer to home, I was stopped at a red light. I stopped right in the middle of the lane, because I like to give drivers enough room to squeeze past me on the right if they want to turn right on red. Some guy creeped up next to me very close on my left, and yelled, “That’s really safe!” I assumed he was being sarcastic, and I was getting ready to yell back, “It would be a lot safer without you getting up my ass!” As I turned my head towards him, I saw that he was leaning towards me and giving me a thumbs-up gesture as he repeated, “That’s really safe…Safe!” So, I guess he was being sincere and showing his appreciation for my high-visibility accessories, namely my bright Planet Bike Superflash Taillight and my Pearl Izumi Vagabond Jacket in Screaming Yellow.
I finished the last part of my ride along 1.25-mile stretch of the local bike path, without incident except for getting pelted in the glasses and teeth by the numerous clouds of bugs. I think that the bugs are worse along the bike path this year because of the larger-than-usual amount of standing water left in the area after the copious amounts of snow, followed by rain, that we had this year.
That’s my bike commuting tip of the day. Yesterday morning it was warm and pleasant, with temperatures in the low to mid-60’s. As I prepared for my ride to work, I checked the weather forecast, and it called for cooler and rain as the day progressed. I decided to go ahead and ride anyway, and packed up my rain gear to prepare for the worst.
It rained on and off throughout the day, but I got lucky during the window of my ride home time. There were dry skies, and a light, warm breeze.
So, don’t check the weather forecast. Just be prepared for any conditions, don’t give yourself additional excuses, and don’t miss out on unexpectedly great rides.