Had a great opportunity to spend the evening camping with some guys last night. Four of us pedaled our way through Lexington, out the Legacy Trail to the Kentucky Horse Park.
We dog legged our way through downtown after work, taking one short cut through and over some rail road. Justin and I left from work, swung by Jason's house and then met Brian at Cricket Press. After a quick stop at Indi's for some wings to go, we were on our way to the campground.
The Horse Park has some pretty basic primitive sites. Basic, as in, it's just a field with trees. It's great for a trip like this when some guys are in tents, some are in hammocks or some are just sleeping on the ground.
Buffalo wings by Indi's. There's nothing like sinking your teeth into some warm, spicy wings after a cargo slog on a loaded bike.
Brian (of Cricket Press fame) was on his Big Dummy. Tim (of that-nice-guy-Tim-fame) drove out that evening to enjoy some fire time and bike talk. Tim and I have crossed paths a couple times through bike stuff over the years. But Brian and I had never met face to face. We'd only seen each other on the internets. The internet is funny that way. But the bond of riding bikes held strong enough to keep the conversation going all night. 
Jason was on his commuter Giant with the BOB trailer behind. The trailer served us well to wrap our wings in a sleeping pad to keep them warm and cozy.
Here's my rig. Panniers in the back, sleeping bag and pad up front in the basket. Bag was in a backpack with some other odds and ends, too. As expected, the LHT does this job really well. Somehow I missed getting a photo of Justin's Kona Dew. I love the Dew. Great all-around bike.
We talked bikes, camping and more bikes well into the evening. The full moon was like a giant floodlight on the campground. Headlamps were used minimally.
Temps got into the twenties. I slept in the hammock but never got cold. I just snuggled deep into my bag and fell into a buffalo sauce induced stupor. When I emerged from the bag in the morning, the world was covered in frost.
Morning brought coffee. Coffee brings warmth. Everything was right in the world. 

We slowly packed up and made our way back. The ride is about 20 miles from work each way. So it was fun to get in some loaded miles to and from. Gotta love it.

Get out there.


Snow Day!

I love to ride when it's snowing.

Get out there.


Basket Case

For quite a while now, I've been pondering front load cargo options. Last week, I finally pulled the trigger on a front basket. It took me a while to make myself okay with a front basket (because I thought it might look incredibly dorky). But you can't beat the convenience and accessibility of it. Front rack and panniers add cargo capacity. But they lack the versatility that a basket offers. Panniers are only good if you have them with you. And I got stuck last week with no panniers and a lot of random cargo. So the basket was ordered.
The basket allows me to toss anything up front. No special bike bags necessary. In the photo above, my backpack is strapped in along with a thermos and random bits. Simple. Effective. I'm thinking that I'll really like this option.

The basket is from Wald and it's just zip tied to a cheap Nashbar front rack. Total investment is around $30. That's also a lot cheaper than a front rack and pannier combination. I've already got a waterproof drybag that I can use for foul weather excursions. It'll lay perfectly in the basket with a bungee.

I'm looking forward to this new cargo option. I think it'll make things a lot easier for all the everyday use when panniers don't quite work. Anyone else out there using a basket? Do I look like a total dork? :)

Get out there.


Now That's a Lunch Break

For the last couple days I've been surrounded by people. Now, I like people. But when I get too much of them, I need to get away. So for lunch I took off on the bike. It only takes about ten minutes of riding before feeling pretty far removed from civilization. So I laid my coat down on the ground as a makeshift blanket, set my timer on my phone for thirty minutes and pulled my Buff over my eyes. A half hour later, the strange beeping of my iPhone brought me out of my sleepy stupor. "Did that just happen?" I thought to myself. Yep. I took a nap for a half hour in some random field somewhere off the side of the road.

I rode the ten minutes back and was gone for less that an hour long lunch break. Time well spent.

Get out there.



Get out there.


One of Those Rides

Yesterday was a first for me. I had to get off the bike and walk... several times. Since I've been riding in my adult life, I have never had to get off the bike. Ever. But yesterday's ride was a twenty miler in the wind and rain on the single speed bike. I just didn't have it in me.

It was a commute ride from my secondary work location to my house. I've never made that ride before. Twenty miles had a lot of appeal and I didn't want the foul weather to deter me. But one mile into the ride I knew I wasn't going to enjoy it.

The first hill to knock me off of my bike was around mile eight. I was giving it everything I had but the single gear couldn't keep me upright. I guess it was the demoralizing combination of one gear, a mighty headwind, rain coming down and a couple loaded bags full of weight. Normally, I can explode through a hill on the single speed. But yesterday there was no explosion.

Pride won't stand in the way of admitting it. It sucked. Bad. But it was a rare day. I've hauled 100lbs of kids on the Xtracycle for longer distances. So I know my legs have it in them. But yesterday was miserable. Guess I'll have to make it up today.
The rain had really covered the landscape. Water covered almost all of the low spots.
That, at least, was a point of interest to occupy my mind as my body wanted to give up on the ride.

Get out there.


Brooks Saddle

My buddy, Jason, is letting me borrow his Brooks Flyer Special for a test run. The Brooks just isn't working for him and I've been wanting to give it a whirl. I'm not one to invest a lot in a saddle. But I doubt it would take much convincing. We'll see how it feels on the LHT.

Get out there.


Shopping for a Bike Shop

I've been thinking a lot about the bike shop experience recently. For the sake of full disclosure, I've got a lot of loyalty to Bike Green Lexington. One of my good friends and riding buddies works there full time. But my dedication to the shop was pretty strong shortly after it opened. Before BGL hired Jason, it was just a one guy shop. Riley (the owner) was the only person that worked there. Now it's just mostly Jason and a little bit of Riley.

What am I looking for? Obviously two things first... I like a shop where they know what they're talking about and I like a shop that has competitive prices. But for the most part, I think most shops can offer those standards.

Are they knowledgable?
There are shops that employ more "retail" type workers. They ride bikes and know product. But they don't live bikes and know the ins and outs of bike mechanics. Honestly, though, most bike shops employees are fairly knowledgable. And if you're not talking to someone who is knowledgable, chances are you're a few steps away from someone who is. If you don't have a reason to trust their answer, ask someone else who's working for their opinion.
And pricing? 
I've learned that shopping at a local shop means you'll pay a little bit more than you will on the internet, yes. But most local shops are pretty much in line with each other on costs. There are plenty of apples-to-oranges comparisons in price, for sure. But just because one shop only carries $3,000 bikes and the other carries $300 bikes doesn't mean the expensive option is a rip-off. That's probably comparing apples to oranges. Most item-for-item price comparisons come out pretty even at shops.
And it's also worth mentioning what to avoid. Avoid the butthole elitist bike shops. (I haven't seen a ton of this in Lexington, by the way.) If you're not very knowledgable and they treat you like you're stupid, they probably don't have the product you want, anyway. And if you shop there, you'll end up buying a side of beef when all you needed was a cheeseburger. Avoid department store bike shops. Don't go to Dick's Sporting Goods. I shop there for lots of things. It's a great place... just not for bikes. Avoid a shop that has a focus different than yours... They may be all about racing, all about commuting or all about riding dirt. None of those are bad things. But if you're thinking about riding your bike to work and you wander into one of those racing type shops, you have a good chance of being convinced that carbon is a great material for a commuting bike. It's not always their fault. But if they eat, sleep and breathe carbon fiber bikes, sometimes they struggle to think about anything else.

So what do I look for? I've learned that I really like a small shop. The guys at BGL know me. And I'm not just talking about being buddies and hanging out at the shop. They know my type of riding. Loyalty means that they've heard your stories. They've seen how you take care of your bikes (or don't take care of them!). They know your budget. They know you'll be back so they're not just trying to sell you this one thing to make a few extra bucks. When my bikes have a problem that's not easily identified, they listen well, and make every attempt at finding it. It's not a sales tactic. It's a customer satisfaction tactic. Being a small shop helps that customer relationship. I don't have to walk in and explain the whole situation again and again.

A small shop that knows you will say, "You need this [BLANK] because you're hard on [BLANK]'s," or "No, you need this inexpensive [BLANK], because the way you ride, this inexpensive [BLANK] would last you forever. That pricey one is overkill." A small shop will keep an eye out for a solution that's not right in front of them. A small shop that knows how much you love to ride will want you back on your bike when you're not riding it. They won't want cost or what's in stock to determine your riding. They will want you to determine your riding. A small shop needs you as much as you need them. So they'll go that extra mile. And if it's a one-or-two-guys-do-it-all shop, it means they love to ride. If they're willing to work on bikes, talk bikes and ride bikes all day, their passion will work to your benefit. They love bikes, not sales. That's a good thing.

I think it's good to try everything. Go into shops and see how they great you. See if they ask about your riding. See if they're excited to hear your answer. I know there's a lot of non-hardcore riders that read this blog, too. If you have questions let me know. For you other readers, how do you choose a shop? Anything I'm missing?

And here are my disclaimers...
For one, please buy local. There are times that I order off the web. Sometimes it can't be beat and I want to ride, not save. But lots of times its worth a call to the shop. I'm blown away by folks that end up paying a tiny bit less for something they've never seen. A local shop will back you up. A local shop will sell you what you need, not what you think you may need. At least make the call.

Also, Bike Green Lexington doesn't pay me to write this or give me free product or anything. This is purely my opinion. They did give me two schrader valve caps recently but they weren't for me. They were to deliver to another customer (See? I told you they were good.).

Get out there.


Ride to Finchville

This weekend opened up an opportunity to ride a 66 miler to my in-laws house right outside of Louisville. My wife's sister is in town and we spent all weekend hanging at her parents' homestead. Sunday's weather was supposed to be in the 60's, so I took the chance to get in some longer mileage.
After about 20 miles, I started to get a little head throbbing. I figured a quick stop at the coffee shop might remedy a headache... Couldn't hurt, right?

Crossing the Kentucky River in Frankfort.
Falling water is always a nice soundtrack.
It doesn't look too fun anymore. There was some fun, strange architecture here, though...
This is the dirty, old remains of a putt-putt course.
Redneck trash heap. It looked like this was a residence. Yikes.
Hay bales, far off in the distance.

The ride went really well. I averaged about 15mph. The wind was in my favor for about one third of the trip. I was impressed with how well my legs held up. I haven't had many long rides recently, so was a little leery of whether or not my body would want to go the full distance, but it was all good.

The LHT was GREAT. Most of my long rides have been on the Cross Check... and I'd feel some pain. The LHT didn't give me any of the hand numbness or back pain that I used to feel on it's more road geometry'd brother. I was very pleased.
And after my arrival, the redneck festivities began. My brother-in-law lives in Seattle. He doesn't get to throw kerosine on fires there. Welcome to Kentucky, my friend.
The kids ran the tiny four-wheeler non-stop for two straight days. This is my six year old son pushing those 50 cc's to the limit.

Overall, it was a great weekend and a great ride. I'm so thankful the weather came on a weekend that allowed me to get on the bike. It couldn't have been better planned.

Get out there.


New Bar Tape

Back when I built up the LHT, I was on a super tight budget and had to use bits and pieces I had or buy components on major clearance. I couldn't be picky. If the color tape I wanted was $18 but there was something on clearance for $8, I went for the cheaper option. Now, though, I've got the inclination to fix a few of those little things.
So I recently ordered some Newbaums cotton bar tape that tickled my fancy a bit more. I chose the maroon color (which will eventually look quite nice under some shellac, I believe). Cotton tape is something I've wanted to play with for a while. No reason. It's just something different. And there's something about the classic look and feel. 

So far I like it a lot. Looks good. Feels good. I'm looking forward to the look of it as it ages, too. It was a good investment.

Get out there.


Commuting Whatnots

Had a couple commuting thoughts...

For one, I got a  much better route that sends me around instead of through downtown Lexington to reach my secondary work location. I wrote about my poor route choices and white knuckle experience a couple weeks ago. So a local reader of this here blog sent me a great map that led me through more residential streets and bike lanes. Thanks, Brian!
New route has a couple great little cut-throughs and much easier riding. It's actually a bit more mileage but a quicker ride. The direct downtown route had me at a lot of stop lights. This map got me there with much fewer stops.
In other news, I got to play with a new computing toy at work. Part of my job oversees the technology for our organization. We recently picked up a Chrome Book to test the potential as a user device. At it's size and with a $200 price tag, I would say this would be a great bike commuter's device. For my work, it could never replace my MacBook Pro. But for most folks it would be great.

I pedaled home with this little guy in my pannier and it was noticeable lighter than my MacBook. It'll do most of what we use computers for, but not everything. But for the price, it'd be worth it to have only as your "take-home" computer. I have to take my laptop home every night... and I can feel it back there. This thing barely changes the load. And there's something to say about a low-cost option when you're pedaling through sleet and rain. If something did happen to it, you could replace it with little investment. I thought it was a noteworthy piece of commuting gear.

Get out there.


Rainy Coffee Stop

Rain was coming down pretty steadily this morning but that didn't mean I couldn't stop under some tree coverage for a little bit of liquid warmth.
I've been carrying a thermos of coffee around more frequently and I never regret a stop.

Get out there.


Full Moon Probs

The photo above is from today's commute. Wet and snowy today. But it's irrelevant to the content I'm writing about. What's on my mind is a bit too gruesome for photography. What's on my mind is roadkill.

Every once in a while I notice a crapload of dead animals on the road. Skunks, rabbits, possums, groundhogs, raccoons and the like. It seems to come in waves. It happened a few weeks ago and I noticed it had recently been a full moon. This last burst of bloated, stinky road bombs? Right after a full moon. Anyone out there ever notice the same calendar of death? Is it a legit, scientific thing? I'm not being superstitious or anything. I'm seriously wondering if there's something that makes the little creatures get out and about, wandering into a destiny of splattitude.

Seriously, let me know if you know. If you think I'm crazy, let me know that, too.

Get out there.