Behind the Scenes

This weekend I did a crap-load of work on the "behind the scenes" world of a biking lifestyle... I cleaned my garage.

While this may not seem to have very much to do with cycling, it really does. When my garage is a mess, I work on bikes less, I tweak bikes less and I ride bikes less. And recently, everything was beginning to fall together into one giant pile of rubble.
I took all the non-outdoorsy stuff and threw it into tubs and stacked it all against a wall. If you're ever in my garage, don't breathe around this area, the tubs may fall over on you.

I've also had my dad's kayak for the last few months on loan. I finally took the initiative to move the 16' beast off of the floor and hang it from the ceiling. I owned a long boat before, so I had a ceiling rig of pulleys ready to use, I just hadn't utilized them yet. So really, it wasn't that hard.

I also hung four different stripped bike frames and their wheels from the ceiling. It pulls everything out of the way quite nicely and makes room on the floor for luxuries like parking and walking.
Now I have one junk pile (versus an entire garage that's a junk pile) that will soon enough be taken to my in-laws for permanent storage. The floor is almost completely cleared. Now I can park the Xtracycle, hang the short bikes and work at the repair bench with ease.
It really is crucial to have organized space for your bikes. In the process, I realized that I want to work on stuff when the atmosphere is conducive to getting things done. I also found all my camping stuff strewn about all over the place. Stuff had fallen out of bags, been shoved around and generally lost throughout the garage. The next time I would have gone camping, it would have been miserable trying to get everything together. I would have linked that emotion of frustration to the general camping experience and would have somehow started out with a poor attitude. Now that everything is organized, I'll be able to head out with no headache.

How about you? Do you have a place for all your outdoor needs? How do you keep it all organized?

Get out there.



For the last week I've been playing with my layers. I realized that I was, for the most part, wearing one standard combination of layers for anything from 25 degrees on down... and most days I was hot. I took a risk last week and stripped back a couple of my layers and it was perfect. I wasn't covered in sweat and I was never cold. Today wasn't the same.

Being that most of the time I wear too much, I risked it again today and stripped back. Not a good choice. I was really cold for the entire ride. And when you're uncomfortable, it's hard to enjoy the ride. I rarely have a ride that I want to be over, but that's exactly what today's was. Fifteen minutes into it, I wanted it to be done.

After being too chilly and fighting a headwind the entire ride, I was very pleased to pull into the parking lot. Hopefully the ride home will be a bit better.

Get out there.


Early Morning

This morning's ride was a bit earlier than most. It's the first time I've turned my head light on or saw the sun rise in a while. I've gotten into a good routine of putting our oldest on the bus, getting ready and heading out the door. That means I'm never out before the light is.

Today I had a meeting early, so I adjusted my plans and got ready before the bus arrived. After our oldest was on the bus, I hopped on the bike and left. I love being out in the dark. It's so much more peaceful for some reason. And being able to see the sun come up is a great way to begin your day. You appreciate it more than when you're driving in your car. There's a connection to it when you depend on it. You're thinking, "Okay, now I'll feel the warmth. I can be seen more easily and I can see everything, too." 

I can't describe it, really. I just get excited every time I'm out like that for sunrise.

Get out there.


More Snow

This has got to be some kind of record year for snow in Kentucky. I'm loving it. I can't wait to get on the bike and head home. As I type, it's coming down hard. I should have another three inches to pedal home on by 5 o'clock. Woo hoo!

Get out there.


The Dorkiest

After seeing myself on the bike in yesterday's post, I realized how dorky that reflective vest looks. I remember there was a time when I thought a lot of things were dorky. I thought fenders looked kind of dorky. I even thought a helmet looked dorky. This vest was the last step towards not giving a crap.

When riding becomes a larger part of your life than the preserving dignity, there's no thought that goes into that silliness. I don't care... at all. Look at the picture above. There's absolutely no color in the landscape these days. And wearing that obnoxious orange vest makes me stick out. I'm all about staying safe. The longer I go without a mishap, the longer I will get to ride. It's worth any sacrifice of dignity I may have left. It's absurd to think I even cared before.

Sure, the high school kids at the bus stop think I look dorky. But one thing is for sure... they don't appreciate a good ride like I do.

Get out there.


Two Hour What?

School was canceled again today which puts us on a two hour delay at work. No complaints from me. I love the extra time with my family and a little bit of cushion on the bike. But I have to say that today's school closing was a bit overkill. I have an intimate knowledge of the road conditions from riding two wheels and there was no cause for alarm from what I saw.

Oh well. It's easy to make a judgement call when you're not the one responsible for the safe arrival of hundreds of little people. I say "thanks" to you, school-closing-decision-maker. You gave me enough time to fiddle with my camera app and figure out how to take a decent self-portrait on the bike.

Get out there.


Winter Eye Candy

Photos from Surly
Surly did a write-up about their new Troll frame that just came out this year. When I first saw this bike, I wondered if it would become my new bike-lust in place of the Long Haul Trucker.

Seeing it in action, here, makes that possibility even stronger. It's looking like this thing has everything I would want in a touring/camping machine. Since a Pugsley would be an absurdity for me in my climate and geographical location, a bike that would sport 2.7" wide rubber and run a good touring set-up would be pretty ideal for me. I could give this thing huge tires for winter and run a more narrow slick for average commuting or touring. Seems tempting. We'll have to see how people use the Troll. It has so many capabilities, I'm excited to see what people do with them.

Get out there.


Bicycles and Icicles

Today was the coldest commute of the year, so far in Kentucky. Work was on a two hour delay so I had some extra time on the bike. It was so awesome. I love riding in the snow.
I even took the time to do a little self-portrait action with the timer. You can see my multiple tracks and footprints. It took several attempts to catch it just right :)
Zero degree windchill made it a frosty ride. But, as usual, it was a blast. What a great adventure on the way to work.

Get out there.


Bike Commuting Tool

This thing has really changed my ability for convenient computer transport on the bike. When the iPad first came out, I was a bit skeptical. And while I know it couldn't perform everything I need a computer to do, it does most of it pretty well. At this point, I'm sold.

The weight of my laptop in a pannier is certainly noticed. But the iPad can nestle right in there with my jeans and t-shirt without causing too much of a scene. The other benefit? E-Books. When I started commuting by bike, I stopped bringing home a backpack full of books and work stuff every night. And when you're sitting at home with no books, you're most likely not reading. I tend to read by mood, too. So even if I bring one book home, I may not jump into it if I'm in the mood for something else.

The iPad solves that. In one small package, I have my email, the web, a few dozen episodes of Seinfeld and a slew of books. That's a bike commuter's dream, if you ask me. Now I just bring my laptop home on the weekends and let the iPad handle the rest of the load. It works flawlessly.

I have a job that's very technology centered. I love when there's a good balance between the benefits of technology and the lifestyle of human-powered transportation. The iPad falls right in that balance.

Get out there.


The Odors of Bike Commuting

Yesterday as I pedaled home in the rain I noticed how the dampness in the air brought out aromas that aren't there when the landscape is dry. It smelled strongly of dirt in some places and hay in others. With all the snow recently, I think the earth thawed out and the rain brought out all those smells.

It got me thinking about all the different smells I smell on my commute. There's so much that characterizes each portion of my ride and I know them all so well. There are cow pastures that smell bovine and horse farms with the odor of the equine. There are neighborhoods on garbage pick-up day that cause you to breathe through your mouth. Summer brings the smell of fresh cut grass. Winter brings the smell of your balaclava when it's in desperate need of a wash. Rain often smells fresh, somehow, and it always makes me wonder why.

Yesterday as I pedaled home in the rain I thought about these things. I was really thankful that my time is spent learning and appreciating little things like smells on my bike. If I were in a car, I'd miss out. I'd be fighting the radio to seek shelter from Taylor Swift or Katy Perry. I'd smell fumes but I would otherwise be comfortable. Yet I would certainly be missing out on the world around me. It's funny how a smell can make you think.

Get out there.


Above Freezing

Today was a typical central Kentucky winter day... rain. To be honest, it felt wonderful. There's been so much snow and cold recently, it just felt great to be above freezing temps. I'm sure after a couple days of rain, I'll want to see the snow again).

Other than speeding through puddles and slinging mud, there wasn't anything special about today's ride. There was one quick moment to pull off to the side and grab a pic with some equine friends. But now it's time to punch the clock and look forward to the ride home.

Get out there.


Embarrassing Shots

I know I keep talking about how bad of shape the Xtracycle is in. My hope is that if I talk about it enough on here, I'll be shamed into putting it on the repair stand and doing something about it. I also thought that this would be an interesting look into what winter does to a bicycle. Keep in mind that this thing was ship-shape a few months ago... smooth shifting and no rust. Winter road grime doesn't take long to rip through a bike's drivetrain.

Well, I can't escape it much longer. My truck needs a little work. I'll see what I can do. Problem is, riding it is much more fun than fixing it.

Get out there.


Another Great Ride

Today's commute was nothing out of the ordinary as far as the ride was concerned. Just the same old salty roads and chilly weather. I did have an interesting anomaly along the way, though. One of my friends is a freelance writer and photographer. She asked if she could do a story about our family and some of the outdoor activities that we do. So this morning she met me along my commute to grab some photos.

It's an awkward thing to have your picture taken... especially when your beard is frozen and you've just blown a couple snot rockets because the windchill is six degrees. But it was a fun little break in the pattern of pedal stroke after pedal stroke.

Her story is being looked at right now by a pretty cool bike magazine (that I'll leave nameless for now). But whether or not it turns into anything, it's still exciting. I love to ride. And the whole reason I blog is to try and inspire people to do the same. "The outside world," as my kids call it, is so much better than sitting indoors all day, no matter how comfortable you are. Hopefully this article will inspire people to get outside, too.

But in the end, it will just be neat to have a picture of myself on the bike (which I don't really have too many of).

Get out there.


The Skinny

I rode skinny tires in the snow this morning. Well, to some 28's aren't skinny. But for me they are. I was curious, and the snow was just snow... not ice. So I gave it a try. Honestly, it was awesome. I got the speed of the road-ish setup and wasn't really at risk of biting it.

It's also a treat to ride the Cross Check. I love this bike so much (still for sale, by the way ;)) There's just something about that feels right when I ride it. And I love that it can do so much.

One thing I noticed was these tracks on the bike path. They're mine... and they're two days old. That tells me that no one has been on the path since Tuesday when I rode it. Sad. It's a bummer that people will jump at the opportunity to ride in the summer but not when it's cold out. It's still a blast. And being outside holds the same value as it does the other months of the year.

Seriously... Get out there.


Indoor Parking

I'm pretty lucky to have an office that allows me to park my bikes inside, but snow changes things. When you ride along, snow picks up all the little nastiness on the road and it freezes to your bike. All that gunk that sticks on the bike with the snow eventually falls when the snow melts away and the floor gets covered in some nasty grime. And I'd like to keep the facilities team on my good side.

So these days the Xtracycle is locked up to the flagpole in front of the building. We don't have bike racks, but this works fine. I'm not sure anyone could slide the bike over the top and make off with it... and if they could, they probably earned it.

It's a small reminder of how good I have it for a bike commuter. Most people are locking their bikes in precarious spots every day. I've got it good.

Get out there.


Today's Commute

Today was another snowy commute on the Xtracycle. I love these days. My work gives us a two hour delay, which means I have plenty of time to get ready, eat breakfast and take the long route. It also means that there aren't nearly as many cars on the road.

The photo above is of the Xtra parked right in the middle of the street in a neighborhood. It would be absurd to park my bike here and take a pic on most days. Not today, though. No one was out. Just me and the sound of my tires crunching through the snow.

It really was a great commute. I love being able to take extra time in the morning to ride. And when the snow is falling and you're wearing appropriate attire, there's nothing more peaceful.
I did, however, feel that guilty feeling about the condition of the Xtracycle again. It shifts terribly. And with the weather like this, it's even worse.

The grimy ice builds up on all the moving parts and you start to lose the ability to turn, push or pull anything but the pedals. My rear brake got so bad I just disconnected it. At the slow speeds I was moving, it wasn't an issue. I've got to do something about this thing soon. On some levels, there's not much you can do with snow and ice. But if the Xtra were in good shape to begin with, it wouldn't be so bad.

In the end, it was over an hour on the bike and lots of fun. It's a blast to get out and begin your day with something adventurous. Every bike ride makes me more and more excited about the next.

Get out there.


Errands at Night

Last night I needed to go out after all the kids were down and the dark had set in. It was one of those scenarios when most people instinctively walk into their garage, fire up the engine and drive to the drug store. Not me. I've got that out of my system over the last few years.

With 15 degree temps and pitch black night, I still want to be on the bike... if only for a few minutes. I hopped on the Cross Check and headed out into the darkness. Great decision.

It feels so nice to have the cold air on your face and warm blood pumping through your veins. There's a certain amount of excitement and adventure, though very small, that makes you feel just a bit more alive than a car ride.

"Was it freezing out there?" Angie asked as I came back in. Yes. It was cold. But it didn't hurt. I was not miserable on the bike, just the tiniest bit uncomfortable (I think we value comfort a bit too much). I loved it. For 20 minutes I smiled as I watched my breath leave my body. It is totally worth it. Night or day. Cold or warm. I always enjoy it.

Get out there.


Face Warmer

There's the ever popular option to wear a balaclava while riding in the winter to keep your face warm. I wear one almost every day. But I've got the added protection of facial hair.

This is a photo from a ride when it wasn't snowing at all (sorry about the open-mouth shot... I couldn't breathe through my nose at that point). That's just frosty build-up on my face from my breath. Sometimes it's amazing to see all that sticks to you when you're riding in the cold. I have no scientific proof, but I think the beard helps keep me warm. Those ice flakes would be resting on my skin if I were clean shaven. Perhaps it makes it worse. I suppose the beard could just be giving that cold moist air a place to land instead of floating away into the oblivion. I'm not sure.

But the beard is here to stay. I'm no mountain man... and I certainly don't do it for the fashion. I have a beard because razors are expensive and I'm lazy. But I'll cash it in as a benefit for winter cycling.

Get out there.



Since the weather has been a few degrees cooler the last few days, I've had some bovine spectators along my commute. I'm not sure where they go during those cold cold days, but they're loving basking in the sun recently.

I guess it's nice to have the company.

Get out there.



I'm really losing patience with my new Cross Check build. It seems like I keep running into little issues that keep this thing off the road.

Last night I put on the new bars, shifters and some cable routing. The cable routing bosses were one of those things that were a bit of an oddity. Surly makes the Cross Check to either run down tube shifters or route your cable from this point. Of course, I didn't have the part and had to order it off the internet.

Last night I thought I had everything I needed, but I was wrong. I had a brand new set of cables from another bike that I was going to use. Didn't fit. Too short. I went to the slightly used set... didn't fit. Too short.
I think the reach on the H-Bars may be a bit more than most. I was short just about three inches on both cable sets. (By the way, that's an old rug I put down when I work on bikes. My wife would not like it if I led people to believe our carpet was that stained :))

So I'm still plugging away. I need to run to the bike shop for some cables and then I should have this thing on the road. I love the look and feel of the H-Bars so far. I can't wait to actually ride this thing.

Get out there... whenever you get your bike finished.


Ending 2010

It felt so great to end 2010 with a family bike ride. Angie was out of town last Friday (New Year's Eve) to attend her grandfather's funeral. I had all three kids to myself and the temperature hit 62 degrees. What were the first words out of my mouth? "Who wants to go for a bike ride!?"

It had been a while since I hauled all three kids on the Xtracycle. And with the maintenance that it needs, it wasn't easy. But of course we had a blast. We hit up my buddy's coffee shop, the library, then went for a Happy Meal run to round things out. What a way to end the year!

One of the great things about family cycling is the pace. The kids are entertained, and those errands by car would have taken a fourth of the time. We spent the entire afternoon out of the house with something fun to do. It's a huge benefit when you're looking to entertain three kids by yourself. Just one more reason to ditch the minivan and straddle a cargo bike.

Get out there.


I'm Sorry Xtracycle

This is a photo of the Xtracycle after I first built it up last year. It was somewhat shiny and in perfect working order back then. I wish I could say the same today. Unfortunately, it's not the case.

I used to drive a Toyota Tacoma. I loved that truck. It was tough, versatile and useful. I remember loving that fact that it was a truck. Trucks aren't meant to be pretty, in my humble opinion. They're for throwing dirty boots in the bed, crawling in the back to sleep after a long day hiking and for throwing into four-wheel-drive to get through a sticky situation. They're low maintenance and fun. That's exactly what my truck was... and that's exactly what my Xtracycle is now.

I treat that bike like a truck. It gets beat up and bruised without much consideration. It gets me through any situation and is rarely given much love. The other day I walked pass the down trodden bike parked in my garage and glanced down at the chain. I didn't take a picture. It was too embarrassing. I rubbed my hand along the links and saw the reddish brown rust stain my fingers.

I've never let a bike get that bad. The chain is nothing compared to everything else that's wrong with it. It's in desperate need of a tune-up. The shifting is atrocious. I'm seriously running about 75% of my available gearing. The wheels are out of true and the braking is affected.

The question is... Why? If my other bikes get the love they need, why does this one get neglected? I think it's the whole "truck" thing. I think of this thing as my truck. It's tough, versatile and useful. It doesn't ask for much and I don't give it much. For that, I am sorry to my dear friend, the Xtracycle. I promise to give you some love soon. I won't take advantage of you like this ever again.

Get out there.