Off Course

An easy pitfall to stumble into when you're a bike commuter is monotony. When you're a commuter, you've got somewhere to be at a certain time every ride. But with the cushy ride of the LHT, I've been feeling like I've been missing some potential mileage. So today I left a tad bit early and increased my regular mileage by about 50%. It didn't tax my time too badly but added plenty of extra sunshine and exercise.

I need to do stuff like this more often. It's fun to ride roads that you haven't ridden hundreds of times. It's more engaging to see new sights and notice new things. For you other bike commuters out there, do you veer off course very often?

Get out there.


Caught in the Rain

Ominous clouds chased me for the first half of my commute this morning. I pushed it hard to try and outrun their wrath. Didn't work.

Got soaked. Still no fenders on the LHT. Fenders are crazy expensive (in my mind). But it was hot and muggy out anyway. The rain felt nice.

Get out there.


Long Ride in the Dirt

Normally a dirt ride for me is a quick pedal in the morning before work or something during lunch break. That means I'm never in the saddle for more than an hour or so. But this weekend, my lovely wife had to take the kids to Louisville and offered to let me ride for a big three hour chunk. That meant I was able to do a lot more exploring than usual.

The photo above is a new creek crossing I'd never taken before. The creek is a little low right now. So this spot usually looks like the trail just rides into the water. But with extra time on my hands and more exposed creek bed  I was able to ride it to the other side and pick up a trail I'd never been on.
Often times, exploration means you're going to run into dead ends. That held true for this trip. There were a couple trails that slimmed down to nothing, eventually leading to thick, overgrown areas of nothingness. No problem for this ride, though. I had the time and mindset to just turn around and look for somewhere else to ride.
Eventually, I popped out into a familiar area and was able to cross the creek again at a low point. I love how something like rainfall affects the entire landscape and whether or not something is rideable. 

I had a great day in the sun and heat. I rode my normal trail route about twice as many times as usual and was able to get in some new stuff, too. It was a great time to be on a bike. Big thanks to Angie for letting me ride!

Get out there.


Almanzo 100

Check this out. Looks awesome.

Get out there.


Wrenching Trick

Since I put disc brakes on the Troll, I've always been annoyed by the canti pivot posts on the fork. If you know much about the Troll frame, you're probably asking yourself, "Aren't those removable?" Yep. They're supposed to unscrew right off, which they did on the rear triangle of the bike months ago. But I couldn't get the front ones to budge. Several failed attempts left the posts stripped and rounded at the very point at which your wrench should grab. I had resigned to the fact that I wasn't getting these things out.

Do they get in the way? No. But I didn't like the looks of them and I'm annoyed when something doesn't do what it's supposed to do. What do you do when you have a problem you can't solve? To the internet!

I saw a couple forums that said to take a blow torch to the bike. Heat up the metal and they'll come right out. I don't have a blow torch. Plus, I saw several replies to those suggestions where people violently exclaimed the danger of torching your beloved ride. So I gave up and did nothing.

But this weekend, I sat in my shaded garage in a lawn chair while my kids ran up and down the street and I could feel those two little posts poking fun at me from the bike hanging in the corner. Everything about that bike was perfect other than those annoying canti posts. They mocked my failure to achieve pure perfection.

No blow torch. But I did have a Bic lighter in my bathroom. Screw you, Tiny Posts. I may not torch you, but I'll at least warm you up.

I held the Bic under the first post for about 20 seconds. I got my adjustable wrench around the semi-rounded notches on the post and... smooth as silk. The post turned. A few rotations later and the post is out. Same on the other side.

No torch needed. Heat is all you need. And apparently not much.

Over the years, I've had lots of stuck parts. This is a great trick for unsticking stuck things. Blow torches are scary. But next time I get myself in a tough spot, I'm heading to the bathroom for the Bic. Its not just good for lighting a candle after one of my kids defiles the toilet. It'll fix a bike, too.

Get out there.



Some guys at work asked me, yesterday, if I wanted to ride somewhere and eat lunch today. I'm always up for riding, so naturally I accepted their invitation. They asked if I knew of anywhere we could ride within a decent distance from the office and sit in the shade to eat.

So this morning's commute was peppered with a little scouting action to see if there was a good place to sit in the shade and enjoy a manly little picnic with friends (I've included the word "manly" there because I anticipate a lot of arm wrestling, growing beards and  peeing while standing up).
I even brought some coffee to test my "sit down and enjoy some type of consumption" criteria for the lunch spot. You may notice I'm rocking the Folgers single serving instant coffee packet there. They're like Starbucks VIA but they don't taste as good. But eight Folgers packets are one dollar. Eight Starbucks packets are eight dollars. Zoinks (as my wife would say). VIA is good. But it's not great. So if I'm not going to hit great, I'll settle for okay. So, settle down, all my coffee snob, friends. I know what I'm doing here.

Anyway, I found a great spot. It's an abandoned gravel road that's completely grown up at the beginning and end of the road, with a few small clearings that are great to sit and relax. You have to forge your way through lots of tall grass and weeds. But you don't have to get off the bike at all to do so. And all that overgrowth offers coverage and privacy (for all the peeing standing up).  I suppose I'll be back there for lunch today.

Get out there.


Heavy Cargo

Lots of miles of family biking this weekend. Three kids, ages 3, 5 and 7 on a cargo bike pulling a trailer is a lot of extra weight. I was slower on these rides than ever before (since my kids continue to grow). I haven't quite figured out how to utilize a better system yet. So for now, it's taking our normal routes with the three bigs ones in tow.
Saturday was a trip to the library. And while we were out we figured we'd hit up the park. Weather was so nice, we ended up staying out for nearly three hours.
On the way back, I spotted some riding gloves on the road in the middle of nowhere. Sweet find! (By the way, they're laying on the hood of my car which is reflecting the clouds. That's not a photo of them floating in the air.)
Sunday's ride took us to Lowes to swap out a propane tank. The thing about propane tanks is that they weigh less when there's no propane in there. So the return ride gave me some extra cargo weight to push up the hills. It was a beast of a load.
On the way back from Lowes we stopped at another park that was at the half way point. I didn't stop because I had bitten of more than I could chew and was about to pass out and my legs were all aquiver and it felt like 200 degrees. I stopped because I'm a good dad and wanted to let my kids play :)
There was a random dog licking faces.
And Abe carried around a big log the entire time. He said it was "pretty like mommy" so he wanted to give it to her as a gift. My wife is beautiful... much better looking than that log.

After some quality park/rest time, we made our way back home. Two days of family riding wore me out. That was quite a bit of mileage for about 140 lbs worth of kid behind me. And that full propane tank certainly pushed me over the edge of my capacity. I was pooped.

But we had a blast and didn't have to drive a car for all those good times. I love riding with the fam.

Get out there.


More Commute Company

Will rode in with me today. We both live in Nicholasville, so he was able to drive to my house and take the long route in with me. For equipment, Will borrowed the Cross Check, pannier and helmet for his first human-powered bike commute.

It's always fun to ride in with someone who's never ridden a bike like that before. It's just another opportunity to show how the bicycle is a viable form of transportation. And Will's an awesome guy. So it was fun to have his company along the ride.

Thanks for joining me, Will!

Get out there.


Just Riding

Nothing to report. Just a cool, rainy day on the LHT. I am seriously loving this bike.

Get out there.


A Good Read

My fantastic wife picked up this little diddy for me about a year ago and I never actually gave it a thorough read. Yesterday, though, I found it in the night stand and decided I'd give it a go.

When she first gave me the book, I was in the midst of other reads. And it's written in a way that you can pick it up and thumb through it and still get a good laugh and some great info. Honestly, the book's ability to be read in brevity is what kept me from reading it all the way through. But fast forward to last night, and I read a few chapters straight through without skimming at all. It's a great read.

If you like bikes and reading, give the Bike Snob a shot. You'll like it.

Get out there.


Family Bike Camping Trip

Last week, the boys and I took our first family bike camping trip together. We parked at the North Lexington YMCA, a trailhead for the Legacy Trail, and pedaled our way to the Kentucky Horse Park for some overnight camping action.
The Legacy Trail has some beautiful views along the way. For the most part, you're pedaling through farm land with scenic fields and trees all around.
That being said, I knew the scenery may not keep the attention of two boys, three and five years old. So we made an effort to stop often enough to run around, drink a juice box and have a snack. They did really well on the ride. I gave them the option of riding together in the Xtracycle or splitting up between Xtra and trailer. They chose to ride separately, which was probably the best choice (It's not easy to pedal that much of a load when there's a wrestling match happening on the deck of the Xtracycle).
It was in the high 90s as we pedaled our way down the path. I took the opportunity to park in the shade if they got fussy. But I was surprised at how well it all went. They were so pumped about camping (plus the amount of juice boxes I brought to keep them hydrated) that they were more patient than usual.
We set up their tent as soon as we arrived. My plan was to sleep in the hammock and let them stay in their Cars tent. But they were itchy to get into the pool, so after Lightning McQueen made his debut, we set off for the water.
Go ahead, boys. Wear yourself out so you'll sleep all night :)
Back at camp, resting in the hammock while dad makes dinner.
Food and water were my most extreme instance of overpacking. I wanted them to have energy and stay hydrated. But I brought WAY too much food and water. When it's that hot outside, the nurturing instincts kick in and you fear dehydration. But we were nowhere near running low. At least my paranoia led to lots of snack times and options for dinner.
I had my classic noodles and tuna dinner. Lots of carbs and protein with very little work.

After dinner was playground time. The Horse Park is great for kiddos. We could have bounced between pool and playground for hours. Fortunately for me, though, the darkness was setting in and the boys were getting tired. After all the pedaling and kid juggling, I was ready to rest, too.
Back to camp for fire and flashlight time. When we stayed moving, we didn't notice that it was still pretty hot outside. But soon enough, the boys would want to go to bed, only to be thwarted by the heat in their little windowless tent.

That was the only drama of the entire trip. Their tent was just too hot to sleep in. After fighting their desire to sleep in Lightning McQueen for nearly an hour, they gave up and came outside to lay on a tarp that I brought. I laid it right under my hammock so that I was just a few inches away. They laid under the stars, chatted and giggled for a while, then fell asleep. I was proud of myself for pulling it off. We had made a pedal powered journey in the heat, spent great quality time together and here we were, a dad and his sons laying under God's creation. It was good stuff.

I did, however, feel some sprinkles of rain at about 3am. Really? Come on! I got up, ran a line above my hammock and hung another tarp over myself and the boys. They never woke up. But it did rain pretty good for an hour. I was glad that I trusted my gut on bringing two tarps. I was also glad that I went ahead and hung the second tarp after just a few sprinkles. Had I not hung it up in time, the boys would have gotten wet and woke up. It would have been a tough recovery after that.
Morning brought on a sunrise soccer game that ended with an injury. After about 30 seconds of tears, he embraced his injury and was proud to bleed on his first man camping trip. And yes, those are Cheeto fingers at 7am in the woods.
We quickly packed up to try and beat the heat.
Clive, the big one, wanted to ride in the trailer the entire time. He's too big for it. It totally squishes him in. But he thought it was funny to ride in the baby trailer and who am I to argue. This trip was about living it up. And when you're five, living it up means different things than when you're 31.
From there it was the same farms from a different angle on the way home. We made it back in nearly half the time that it took us to get there the previous day. Even after having tired legs, I think the morning temps gave me the extra boost to roll along a little faster.

It was an awesome trip. I can't wait to make it again. Angie wants to go with our oldest as soon as we can leave the baby with a sitter overnight. That would be awesome.

I did learn a few things...

It's easy to overpack on any camping trip. But when you're bringing little ones along, it's a certainty. In hindsight, I would rather underpack on a trip like this and hit up the camp store if I've forgotten something that's a necessity. With the boys weighing in at nearly 100lbs, plus all of the bike, trailer and gear, my legs were pulling some major cargo weight. It didn't slow me down terribly, but it would be nice to ditch 20lbs or so.

There's a trade off between camping in the heat and having the pool available versus camping in the fall but not having the pool to occupy their time. The majority of our time was spent swimming. Our night would be a bit easier in cooler weather, but I would need to compensate with other activities during the day.

And for parking, I called the North Lexington YMCA ahead of time and they were great. They were excited that we were making the trip and welcomed us to leave the car. That's good to know. They just asked that I email my car's make, model and license number for reference. If you're ever interested in this trip, I'd do the same. And parking the car was a great option. I've done this trip a few times, now, but I've always left from home on the bike. That's too many miles and unsafe roads for a family trip, though. Parking at the Y is a great distance and makes it 100% on the bike path.

Other plans?

I'd love to set up a trip this fall and plan it using this blog. Are there other family bike riders out there that would be interested in doing this trip? The primitive sites at the Horse Park would be perfect for dozens of bikes, tents and families rocking it out for a night. Who's interested? I love to hear from any of you that would want to do a Lexington family bike camping trip. Shoot me an email or comment below. I'll start to compile a list.

Get out there.


Long Haul Trucker Ride

Today was the maiden voyage of the new Long Haul trucker. I got everything in working order and wanted to take it for a spin to see what needed to be fine-tuned. I used to just spin the bike around the neighborhood when I built one up. Now I get it in good condition, then take it on a 8-10 miler. That way, I can get a better read on exactly what needs a bit of tweaking.

This test ride was done on by using my commute. I left with plenty of time to allow for adjustments but none were necessary. I do have one link in the chain that's really sticking. It's a used chain, and I'm sure I can work it out, but it was annoying. The chain is also a bit too short. I'm putting too much tension on my rear derailleur when I'm on the big cog and the big chainring. In fact, it really won't go there at all.

Also, I need to true the wheels. I'm using v-brakes and road levers. They're made to work together (which they do well) but... no barrel adjuster. That means I've got little room to make small adjustments to the cable tension. If my wheels are true and the brakes are set up well, it won't be an issue.

All in all, I'm very pleased with this bike. I LOVED the way it rode. It was crazy comfortable and felt like a great fit. Honestly, I thought it would be too big. It's a 52 and my Cross Check is a 50. But this felt even better than the CC. Perhaps its the geometry of the frame. Perhaps its the size. Either way, I loved it. Being that this is my wife's bike, I was ready to sell the Cross Check and buy a Long Haul Trucker... all from this one ride. Obviously, I'll give it more time to make that decision. But I can see myself contemplating it over time.

Get out there.


A Week Off

It's been a while since I posted anything over here. The wheels have still been rolling but the fingers just weren't documenting it. I took a week off of work just to be around my family before school starts up. One of my commitments to myself was to leave work and blogging off of the to-do list. I wanted to be present while I was at home, not thinking about my computer. We did do some fun bike riding. I'll report on it eventually. But for now, just the regular stuff...
Yesterday I took the opportunity to ride over lunch. We've had some wet weather recently, but the trails were just damp enough to offer a ton of traction without any slop. Plus, I think I've found the perfect pressure for my new tires. Honestly, I'm not even sure what it is... I didn't have a pump with me to check the PSI. I've just been letting out a little air at a time and riding on it to see how it feels. But yesterday's pressure felt great. Lots of bouncy cushion and grip while maintaining speed and responsiveness. It made me really love these tires.

It's amazing how much tires can make a difference on a mountain bike. I have a tendency, with equipment, to go, "Eh. It's probably all the same." But this rubber proves me wrong. I'm really enjoying the ride quality and added confidence these give me on the trail. My downhill is faster, my turns are sharper and my climbing is more efficient.

The wide 2.5" tire is doing more for me than I thought I would notice. I'm a big fan.

Get out there.