Wet Weather Gear

Lots of people let wet weather deter them from riding. They think it's going to take a lot of investment to get all the right stuff for sloppy rain commutes. Here's a few quick thoughts from my senseless mind.
Nice bags are great. Mine were expensive (to my standards) but would last me the rest of my life if all I ever did was bike commuting. There's almost no chance that water would get in there. But you don't have to spend that. For years, I had cloth bags that I used with my clothes inside a rolled up garbage bag. I don't think anything ever got wet. Go for it. You may love riding in the rain. If you love it, invest in some nice bags. It's worth a try.
For wet weather attire, I wouldn't go crazy expensive. It was 39 degrees this morning and I rode in a pair of Walmart sweatpants. My rain jacket was twenty bucks.  I've been wearing a Buff over my face to keep crap from flying into my mouth. It doesn't really keep me warm. It's just deflecting nasty road grit.

Should you ride your bike in the rain? I would probably tell you to try it. If you try it and realize it's something you may do more of, maybe think about a single speed beater bike. But a few rides a year won't be terrible. Keep your chain lubed if you give it a try. But don't be terrified of riding your bike in the rain.

Just give it a try. You don't need a whole lot to get out in the rain.

Get out there.


More Than Pedaling

We had our first all-family ride of 2013 this weekend. With the big kids riding their own bikes now, it's an all new setup. I'm still riding the Xtra with a three-year-old on back while pulling a trailer with the baby in it. But the big ones are powering their own wheels.

It's an interesting thing to ride with children on their own bikes. We've got a lot to teach them. They get easily distracted and weave in and out of the group quite a bit. It was a lot of drama trying to get them to focus and stay straight the whole time. I remembered similar issues when we've done larger Bike Lexington events where they close down the streets. Kids ride bikes erratically, with nothing in mind but fun (which I love). But in a group, they can become a little dangerous. Angie and I had to really keep an eye on them and our hands on our own brakes for every minute.
Our child-hauling cargo options still work for ventures outside the neighborhood. We'll just put two kids on the Xtracycle, one in the trailer and one on a trail-a-bike with Angie. But I'd love to teach them some rules of the road while cruising around on safer streets.

Anyone got any tips for teaching kids bike riding etiquette? There's about a half mile stretch of road that we have to ride to get anywhere outside of our neighborhood. The speed limit is 35mph with plenty of shoulder, but I wouldn't risk it... not after this weekend's demonstration. They'd be all over the place.

Some rules we talked about:

  • stay behind dad but in front of mom
  • stay as far right as possible
  • watch the person in front of you and be ready to brake if they stop
  • don't stop for no reason
  • drive straight, no swerving for fun (even though it is fun)
  • if you have to stop, pull off to the right
All of that stuff kept coming up... which is a lot for a six year old boy's brain to think about (especially when you're distracted by the awesomeness of riding a bike. I'd also not that the girl did way better than the boy! He was too interested on the fun side of things).

We'll keep working at it until things get a little better. But they may be bike passengers instead of pilots for another season or two if we're leaving the neighborhood.

Get out there.


Country Folk

This has been a week off of work for yours truly. That means I've had more opportunity to ride the random roads out in the rural country that I live in. Here's what I've noticed...

Everyone in the country has an extra building. They love extra buildings. Garages, sheds, barns and whatnots are off to the side of 75% of the houses out here. Most of them have some great character, too.
Creeks are everywhere. They're small enough to meander back and forth between the roads. It's almost impossible to ride more than three miles without crossing a creek here in Kentucky.
Ready for a weird one? Llamas. I've mentioned it before here on the blog. But I see a lot of llamas on my rides. This one came over for a close visit after I had already put my camera away.

I love Kentucky. I love living out in the realm of rednecks, sheds and alpacas. And I love riding my bike through it all.

Get out there.


Bottom Brackets

I put a new bottom bracket in the single speed Cross Check last night. Truth be told, it wasn't the right size for my crank I've been using anyway. When I bought the frame from Doug, he included a bottom bracket that he'd been using with a single speed crank. My crank is made for a triple, with chainrings removed. So it was a bit too wide for this BB. So when you really tightened the crankarms on there, it wouldn't work. I could get it tight enough... but not as tight as it should be. And recently, it's been giving me a clicking sound, too. Time for a new bottom bracket.
Here's my rant on bottom brackets... I don't ever buy nice ones. For $15, you can buy a cheap one and replace it on the bike within 15 minutes. That's a pretty small investment. Even on my foul weather rain bikes, I've never had one fail in less than three years' time. So I appeal to the general public to ask; What am I missing? Should I be buying a nicer bottom bracket? What does it benefit me?

I see them as somewhat disposable. I don't take care of it. I don't repack bearings or deal with maintenance. I just put a new one in. And in seven years of riding multiple bikes through all sorts of weather, this is only the second one that I've replaced. And technically, it was a used bottom bracket.

So I ask you, what are you using and why? Anyone else have this crude mentality with bottom brackets? I suppose there's power to be gained with a nicer bottom bracket. But I really can't imagine that's much.

And a side note; I'm the same way with chains. I treat them poorly and throw them away when they're done. I replace them with a cheapo chain and go straight to abusing it. Maybe I've got this all wrong :)

Get out there.


Bike Dreams

Every once in a while, I get a new desire for a new bike. For whatever reason, this is the season to want a Rivendell Hunqapillar. I can almost guarantee you that this will never happen. But I'll continue to dream about it. Click on that link and check out how beautiful it is. Seriously stylish and functional bike.

A boy can dream.

Get out there.


Downtown Riding

Today opened up an opportunity to ride my bike from our out-in-the-country campus to our have-to-ride-through-downtown campus. Riding in a more urban context is always an eye opener for me. My commute barely has be touching my brakes. I can ride for a mile at a time without looking at anything but my front tire. That's not the case with riding in the city.
I have to be honest, it's got me appreciating my rural rides. It's a blast to ride downtown. But I can't let my brain turn off like I do normally.
I even laughed at myself at one point for trying to find photos of something other than just cars. There's a lot more visual stimulants when riding in the city. But I think it overloaded my brain. I thanked God for my horses and green grass. It would take me hours to get to work if I had all these points of focus screaming at my camera every morning.
It was a great ride, though. It's 12 miles from office to office. Makes for a perfect mid-day run.
And I've got to hand it to Lexington. I spent a lot of time on bike lanes. Not bad for a smaller city.

Get out there.


New Territory

Today over lunch I went home with my buddy Jeff. Jeff's become an avid bike commuter with similar mileage to what I ride to and from work. Although we commute to the same destination and are riding the same distance, our rides couldn't be more different.

Jeff is riding on busy streets through a more developed area. He's got stops, turns, lights, traffic and businesses everywhere. I have one stop, one turn and lots of horses. I wouldn't say one is better than the other. Just different. Today's ride seemed to go by really fast compared to my commutes. New visual stimulants speed things up quite a bit. I've noticed myself getting bored with my commute recently. Today was a nice refresh.

Get out there.


Lunch Run

Took a ride to the bike shop with Noah during lunch. Stopped and ate at a nice little pond.
Noah's got a super new, super tall LHT.
Vandals have an ironic sense of humor.
I picked up a new bottom bracket for the single speed Cross Check and a tire for a friend. I'm all like, "Yeah, I got a tire on my back," in this photo.

Get out there.


First Opportunity

Today was the first opportunity to get out on the upgraded rain bike. Rode like a dream. I'll definitely need a new stem, though. This one is way too long. No problem, though. That's an easy fix and I've got one in the garage waiting to be used.

Get out there.


Single Speed Cross Check

The single speed Cross Check finally got some much deserved love this weekend. After building this frame up in various configurations over the years, this is one that I'm actually proud of. The photo above shows the build as of last Friday's commute. Here's the new build...
New drops, levers, tape, fenders and pedals not only give it a better look, but make it a bit more functional, too.
I was going for a full-out black build. I wanted to give the colored bar tape a lot of pop.
More of these Tektro levers. They are road levers that work with V-Brakes. I'm running V-Brakes on my LHT and this rain bike. I just don't think you can beat the stopping power that they offer at their pricepoint.
I've been working in the kitchen instead of the garage recently. Good thing I have an awesome wife that's okay with it :)
Next came new fenders. I used a set of Planet Bike Cascadias but wanted to add a little flare. For now, I used electrical tape to drop a racing stripe down the center. I figured if I liked the appearance, I could do a more permanent paint solution down the road. I really liked the way they turned out. They also have more coverage than my last set. They're a bit wider to work with the current tires I'm running and will allow for some growth in the future.
Not a great photo but you can get the impression of the bikes new look. I swapped out the smaller pedals for larger Kona platform pedals and it's an all new ride. My stem feels a little too long. So I might change that out after a couple rides. My test ride was in 16 degree weather with no head covering or gloves. So I was evaluating my potential for hypothermia more-so than I was evaluating the ride. We'll see.

All in all, I'm very pleased. I like the drop bars on a single speed. When the wind is pounding me, I can crouch down out of it a little more. Plus, my wrists have always gotten achey on straight bars. And the pedals are a HUGE upgrade. In slippery, rainy conditions, I have often slipped off and raked my shin down the pedals. It hurts. These new platforms are big a grippy. They'll be perfect.

This generation of the Cross Check may make me a bit more likely to choose it on non-crappy weather days. I'm looking forward to it.

Get out there.