Its Electric!

The “green” benefits of riding a bike are often touted by the bicycle advocacy crowd – this author included.  Despite the obvious environmental goodness of transporting yourself with leg power compared to other methods, folks still strive to “improve” on the bike’s green image.  And these improvements often involve electrification in some way. One of the more recent variations on this theme is the Yike Bike.

(more…)

See and be seen

Daylight savings time is an odd beast.  I’ve heard several explanations on its origins – ranging from bankers and stock brokers, to farmers wanting their children to be able to get chores in during daylight hours before school, to railroad interests.  Clearly they didn’t consult with bicycle commuters on their opinions, though, as the time shift puts the normal commute home into complete darkness.

It is a very subjective opinion, but city traffic in the mornings seems to be less hectic than traffic on the evening commute.  Perhaps it is because folks are anxious to get home – or to the pub – quickly after work, but not quite so rushed to get to the office in the morning.  Whatever the cause, I much prefer to ride in morning darkness compared to evening darkness.

(more…)

A view of my commute to work

It has been a while since my job switch, and things are starting to settle into a routine (which also means I’m getting back up to speed with regular posts here!)  Of course, being JustAnotherCyclist would require me to post the obligatory commute to work video.  Well, here it is folks.  This was taken with my GoPro camera mounted on the handlebars of my Cannondale R300 commuter.  I set the camera to take one shot every 3 seconds, and stitched them together into this short video.

(more…)

South Seattle Cyclists – Be Heard!

The Cascade Bicycle Club are not only responsible for the great Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic, but also do amazing work throughout the greater Seattle area to improve life for cyclists.

(more…)

Cycling to work when work is soccer

Now all of you footballers (aka soccer players) can have a role model to inspire you to join the 15mpd movement!  According to ghanasoccernet.com, Chelsea FC midfielder Michael Essian has decided to make his 10 mile round trip to the training grounds via bike – instead of sporting the Lamborghini.

Shocked Premier League buddies have even nicknamed the £120,000-a-week Ghana midfielder “Lance”, after Tour de France legend Lance Armstrong.

While the rest park up their Bentleys and Porsches, Michael, 27, cuts a cool figure in helmet and wraparound shades as he gets off his £1,300 two-wheeled racer.

— From “Michael Essian goes into cycling

But watch out Essian!  I just happen to know of another footballer that may just be nipping on your heels – both on the pitch and the bike!

Riding across the Dumbarton

Part of my Sacramento to Palo Alto commute has me transferring to a bus that drives me across the bay into San Francisco.  Unfortunately, the company that Amtrak has contracted for the bus service has removed the bike racks from the front of their busses.   This is a little frustrating given the fact that they finally just got them on 6 months to a year ago.  It is further frustrating because they took them off so that they could install the FastPass transponders that tick when the go through the toll booths.  I’m not exactly sure why the entire front of the bus doesn’t allow for both the 8-10 inch transponder and a bike rack, but whatever. (more…)

Oh man have I got a commute for you!

I’ve yammered on a bunch about my 125+ mile, 3 day a week Sacramento to Palo Alto commute.  In a couple of Follow Ross to Work Day posts, I’ve detailed my use of my bike, trains and busses to make the commute – keeping me out of the car and out of I80 / I680 traffic.

But now I’m going to mix it up a bit.  August 22 I’ll be doing my Sacramento to Palo Alto commute entirely by bike! Some of the more observant among you will notice that Aug 22 is actually a Sunday.  Well, I’m not quite ready to do a 134 mile bike ride prior to a full work day, so I’ll stay Sunday night in Palo Alto or somewhere near there.

This will also be a rather big test of the bike functionality of Google Maps, which has laid out a supposedly safe bike route for me.  Of course you can expect tweets and posts here about the conditions, cursing the delta breeze, and probably some video from the Benicia-Martinez bridge.

Stay tuned!

Doing three grand tours of my own this year

There are numerous races both large and small that make up the pro cycling season.  However, none get quite the attention of the three grand tours:  the Tour de France, the Giro de Italia (Tour of Italy) and the Vuelta a España (Tour of Spain).  However, this year I’ll also be doing three of my own grand tours:

* My wife Melissa will be with me on these two rides

Wait.  The Tour de Ross’s Commute?  What the heck is that??

For over three years now, I’ve been commuting an average of 3 days a week between my home in Sacramento, CA and my work in Palo Alto.  It is about 125 miles or so by car.  Of course, I don’t do it by car.  However, after a couple of the “Oh – did you ride here from Sacramento” jokes from coworkers as I rolled my bike into the office, I decided to make it so that I could actually answer “Yes!”

That’s right, I’ll be throwing my faith (and bike, and life) into the hands of Google maps and their new bike route mapping to plot my safe path the 139 miles I’ll be riding.

There are some interesting challenges and points of interest in my route:

I don’t fully know what to expect of this ride yet.  That is part of why I am so excited about it!

Bad panniers made good

My new (used) Cannondale R300 has proved to be a little challenging to transform into a reasonable commuter bike.

Specifically, I’ve found it a little challenging to be able to carry the amount of stuff I want, with the flexibility I want, on this frame.  I’m really attempting to take a low-end “racing” geometry bike, and turn it in to a touring bike.  No small feat.

Fitting the Tubus Cosmo rear rack was pretty straight forward, thanks to the advice (and assortment of adapters and conversion parts) of Wayne from TheTouringStore.com.  However, the short chain stays on this bike still gave me issue with heal clearance from time to time.  Also, this rack (as seen in the picture) has a lower set of bars in addition to the upper set – and this is where I wanted my panniers to hang.  Why on the lower rack?  First off, I carry a fair amount of weight at times, and keeping that weight lower has advantages for bike handling and stability.  Secondly, I like to put stuff on the top at times – like other cargo, or a rear “trunk” bag I have that straps to the top rails.  Either of those two things make it so you can’t take panniers on and off without a great deal of trouble.  There was also a bit of an annoying issue where the bolts that hold the hangers on the panniers were hitting various spots in the rack preventing them from hanging securely in some positions.

Unfortunately, moving the panniers to the lower rack moved me from a situation where I might hit my heel on the bags under certain circumstances, to a situation where the heel was definitely going to hit the bags each and every pedal stroke.

However, the solution to this was actually another idea that was given to me by Wayne from TheTouringStore.com.  Basically, it is a small modification to the bags to make them hang at an angle instead of straight up and down.  Picture the side view of a bike with a pannier hanging on it.  Then, picture moving the rear, upper corner of the bag up slightly.  You’ll realize that the front bottom corner – the place you foot would hit, will actually swing back slightly giving you more clearance for your heel.  This was the modification I was going to make.

My particular bags kind of, well, suck.  Generally speaking, panniers are made to carry most of their load in a vertical orientation – that is to say, they are taller than they are wide.  This is due in a large part to the heel clearance issue I was facing.  My bags, however, are oriented horizontally.  Kind of a pain in the butt.  These are another one of those items that I bought early on in my cycling experience, when I didn’t really have all of the information I needed to make the best product selection.  However, I have them now and I’m not in a super big hurry to replace them, especially if there is a simple modification that can make them more functional for me.

There is, however, one thing about these bags that made this modification a whole lot easier.  As you can see from the photo, the bags can actually be detached from backing that attaches to the bike.  This backing is a hard plastic sheet covered in canvas, sporting both straps and zippers on both ends.  The zippers are how the bags are attached, but you can also use the straps (sans bag) to attach stuff that might not fit into the bags – think sleeping bag here.

This makes things easier for me, because what I need to do is rotate the attached aluminum bar in a way that will cause the front, bottom corner to rotate back and up.  The aluminum bar is simply bolted through the plastic sheet on both ends.  All I need to do is unbolt the back end of this bar and drill a new hole in the plastic lower down.

Before Modification

After Modification

Drilling through the canvas actually turned out to be surprisingly difficult.  I was using a standard drill bit, so I’m thinking it just never “grabbed” – and thus getting through the canvas was more of a friction / wearing down operation than a drilling operation.  However, I was able to get cleanly through the plastic sheet on the inside once the canvas was pierced.

I chose to rotate the bar down as far as I could – which put me right up against the riveted pin that anchored the bungee cord.  It would actually have been possible to rotate further by also relocating the bungee cord anchor, but I decided to try it without that extra step first to see if it worked out.

After I drilled the first pannier, I stuffed the bag with towels and a ubolt to simulate a fully loaded bag and mounted it on the bike.  It was a good, stable fit on the lower rails, with the vertical bar going up to the upper rails in the rear actually providing additional stability.  I had the bike already mounted on my training rollers so that I could actually test the fit out in as close to real-world as possible without actually going outside.  The result?  I had about an inch of clearance with my heal artificially stretched out as far as possible while clipped in to the pedals.  Success!

This simple modification took me maybe 30 minutes at most – including my silly mistake of drilling the wrong end of the second pannier!However, it saved me perhaps a couple of hundred dollars or so in the short term.  At some point I’m going to have to upgrade to something a little more weatherproof anyhow, but as we head into spring this is probably something that I can put off for now.  And even after I do get different panniers, these bags will be a lot more useful and usable for trips to the store, camping, or whatever else may come up.

Again, a big thanks to Wayne for the whole idea of modifying these in this way, and for the great service getting the rack itself fit to my bike properly.  One of these days I’ll pick up a set of forks that are the same geometry, but with eyelets in ‘em and get a rack on the front too.

New chainrings and a new rack in the rain

It wasn’t exactly cold, but it was a little chilly.  And there was a constant drizzle that was just on the borderline of being called rain.  The weather report said the gusts were in the 15-20 mph range.  Generally not the ideal riding conditions.

And I was loving every minute of riding in it.

(more…)