April 22, 2011

I bought something I intend to never use: RoadID

It's not too often that you buy something with the intention of never using it, but that's exactly what I've done. RoadID is a company that sells different types of wrist and ankle bands for the purposes of assisting first responders if you are incapacitated. I'll be putting a lot of miles on my shoes and bike this summer, so it seemed like a good idea to upgrade the drivers license I normally run or ride with. A drivers license doesn't tell paramedics if you have allergies or a medical history, who your insurance provider is, who to contact in an emergency, or even what blood type you are. All good kinds of information for first responders to have when you're not conscious to give it to them.

The wristband I got is made of a yellow rubber and it's got a watch-style clasp for putting it on and taking it off and on the top it has a metal band with your information engraved on it.

I'll be going out of my way to make sure this is an investment I never need to use, but I'll be glad I have it just in case.

The bottom of the band.

The top of the band. Information blurred out for privacy.

April 19, 2011

getDowntown: Commuter Challenge - Ann Arbor

If you work in Ann Arbor, sign up for the Commuter Challenge before May. You can log the miles you commute by walking, biking, busing, swimming, or any form of non-single-person-in-a-car commuting. There's free ice cream for those who participate, and that's something any speedy chub can get behind, right??

I'll be logging my biking miles!


April 15, 2011

The Search For a Speedier Swim Suit Part 2

In January I wrote a post about looking for a speedier swimsuit for doing triathlons than the suit I had at the time (a suit that resembled very baggy shorts). When I first started my quest I had four requirements for the ideal suit:

  • Hydrodynamic Efficiency

  • High range of motion

  • Hide some chub

  • Look 'cool'

  • I'm here to report that I have procured a Sugoi Turbo Tri Suit. It is a very tight fitting suit and fails completely at meeting the last two requirements. However, it does meet a new and very important requirement: avoiding public nudity. Once I thought through the logistics of how I would actually go from wearing a wet suit to wearing my bike gear it became clear to me that under my wet suit would have to be something that I could wear during all three events (swim, bike, run). The tri-suit seemed to be the best platform for such a thing. I like to think of it as my base layer for all three events. Although I do look like a walrus crammed into a latex glove, at least the moments I'll be in the tri-suit alone will be brief. 

    So far I've taken it for a spin in the pool and I've gone for a 4 mile run with it. It seems to perform pretty well and I don't have any complaints yet. 

    New Suit

    Old Suit

    April 14, 2011

    The Commute to Work

    Snapped another panorama photo on the way to work today. So far I seem to only remember to do this while I'm at the river. This one is taken on the wooden bridge that I use to cross the Huron River. It's much nicer to cross there than on the five lane heavy traffic bridge. Here it's one lane for cars and two for bikes and pedestrians.

    Plotting a bike course to work

    Just posted a blog post at getDowntown about how I mapped a bike commuting route.


    April 9, 2011

    Red Racer, the secondary bike

    I have what I think of as a really nice bike. The bike I have is designed for being sporty. More for the speedy side of the speedy to chub spectrum. With this bike I don't hesitate at riding for 30 miles or more in one session. But with this bike I do hesitate to ride it one mile into town and lock it up on the side of the street while I run errands or hang out with friends. It's the sort of bike that I'd really miss if someone stole it. What's the solution? Use a lesser, secondary bike for such excursions.

    In my case it's the Red Racer, an old Ross bike probably from the 1980's that was just barely rideable when I first got it. A donation from my father, this bike is to be my downtown-lock-it-up-on-the-side-of-the-street-and-don't-worry-bike. So, the two priorities for it are,

    1. Safety. It should not pose any undue risk of death or destruction.
    2. Cheap. It should not pose any undue risk to my wallet.
    These two priorities are somewhat in conflict at times. For example, when I noticed that the tires had rips in them I had a few choices. I could get the super cheap $7 tires, or I could get some mid-range tires that are just 'ok' for $20. I went for the $20 tires with the thought that the two things one should not skimp on are stopping and steering. Tires are foundational to both. Plus, who wants to be constantly fixing a flat because of a cheap set of tires? Not me. 

    One way I'm cutting costs and making the bike safer is by doing as much of the maintenance and repair work myself as possible. I have to admit that going into this my knowledge of bike repair was pretty much limited to hazy recollections of how to replace a flat tire from decades ago when I was first introduced to bike repair. Before embarking on this project I checked out a book from the library called "Zinn & the Art of Road Bike Maintenance", by Lennard Zinn. It turns out to be a wonderful guide and reference manual for someone, like me, starting out in bike maintenance. 

    So far, I've adjusted the seat and handlebars to my dimensions, changed the tires, rebuilt the rear brakes, tuned the front derailleur, cleaned several components, and rewrapped the handlebar tape with some spare tape I had laying around (like the subtle colors?). The hoods were covered with a dry rotted and ripping rubber, so I took that off and used some spare black handlebar tape to cover them (thinking cheap!). There are many things yet to do. The front brakes need to be rebuilt, the wheels need to be trued, I think one of the spokes is about to go, and I need to wash and probably overhaul most of the drivetrain. Oh, and the pedals need to be replaced or fixed (if that's possible), since one of them creaks when you put load on it. 

    The Red Racer after some initial work

    April 6, 2011

    Ann Arbor getDowntown Commuter Challenge Ambassador

    I've been signed up as an "ambassador" for Ann Arbor's getDowntown Commuter Challenge. I'll be doing a little extra blogging on their site about how to get started with commuting to work on a bike and a few of my experiences during the Commuter Challenge in May.

    I'll be sharing my own experiences in how I overcame my personal hurdles to start commuting by bike, but here's my question for you - what's stopping you from biking to work? What hurdles do you have to overcome in order to start biking to work? I want to know!

    April 5, 2011

    Spring Cleaning: A Thorough Cleaning of The Bike

    Last Saturday I went and did an informal mini-triathlon. I started off at a local pool, then biked down by the Huron River, and then ran around the neighborhood at home. When I started out on this adventure the sky was blue and the birds were chirping; it was a beautiful spring day. When I came out of the pool to bike the sky was a little more cloudy, but I decided to press on. A few clouds weren't going to stop me, right? Just before I got to Dexter (about 10 miles into my trip) the sky opened up and gave me everything it had. I got all four seasons in about a half hour. There was heavy rain, snow so thick I had to pull over for a while because it caused white out conditions, hail that pierced my cheeks, and sleet that seemed to easily drive through all my layers of clothing. I got home, and by this time it was back to being sunny and nice out. I went on my run and on the last few blocks of the run it started hailing really hard again. "This is true Michigan training," I thought to myself as I cleaned myself of icicles and random road debris. Later I went to go wipe down my bike and that's when I decided it was time for some spring cleaning. It had been a while since I had given the machine a good and proper washing. This last ride made it a total mess.

    Since it was too cold outside to run a hose comfortably I took the bike downstairs, into the laundry room. I prepared a bucket with some warm water and a dab of dish soap (just enough to make a few bubbles on the surface). Next to me were three rags and an old toothbrush. I took one rag and wet it with plain water and wiped down all the non-oily parts of the bike. Then I took another rag and wet it with the soapy water and wiped the same parts. With the third rag I dried all the wet parts. In order to get to the hard to reach places I took the wheels off. The front wheel is an easy one to take care of, but the back wheel requires a little more dexterity. I've found it's easier to deal with it if it's in the smallest gear. Once the rear wheel was off I started taking care of all the oily parts (as in the drivetrain). First I used the soapy rag on the chains. Then, when that was exhausted I took the old toothbrush to it. The rag got most of the oil and dirt from the exterior of the chain, but inside there was still plenty. Using the toothbrush, with the bucket below catching the runoff, I was able to (very slowly) make my way around the whole chain and get it far cleaner. Then I rinsed the chain with the hose (bucket still below) and tackled the gears in a similar fashion. Once all the gears and chain were rinsed and dry I grabbed some lubricant and got it lubricated, making sure to shift through all the gears before wiping the excess off.

    Drivetrain before cleaning

    Drivetrain after cleaning

    April 1, 2011

    The bikes parked around Ann Arbor

    Spring is great. The sun starts to come out, the birds chirp, the air warms, and the glaciers retreat from the streets. And with the warmer weather come all the cyclists emerging from their hibernation. Ann Arbor has a growing community of cyclists and people who happen to have bikes (I make a distinction, even if it sounds snobby). I was downtown today and snapped a few pics of bikes parked on the streets. I'm always fascinated by the variety of bikes you can find parked around town. I'm an advocate of using a separate bike for doing errands and parking in public spaces than the one you use for sporty activities. I'm working on an old beater right now (future posts will elaborate). The idea being that you have a cheap, safe (and probably real old) bike to ride that you won't get too upset about if it gets stolen or vandalized (unlike if the same were to happen to your carbon road racing bike). That being said, I think there's a limit to how bad a bike I'd ride. For example, I was pretty surprised by the amount of rust in drive trains I saw while walking about.

    The rust on this one is so bad the chain doesn't even stay straight!

    More rust, it's gonna bust!

    Some of the more maintained bikes I saw on this tour were parked outside of annarbor.com, but still seeing rust on some of the chains


    Almost hipster :)

    Love the colors

    If this isn't this person's primary bike, then their primary bike must be really really nice - This bike sports the only set of clipless pedals seen all day. This is someone with a lot of trust (note the helmet and wheels aren't locked down)

    This one wins do-it-yourself style points. The front light (close up picture below) is home made

    Front light made out of some sort of recycled container

    Two different approaches to hauling stuff

    Classic commuter

    Hope they have a spare