Monday, November 28, 2005

Beer run

I just discovered that a six pack fits nicely in my messenger bag, and the heavy-duty waterproof liner keeps the precious cargo nice and cool.

And here is that cargo. Mmmm, beer!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Working up an appetite

Just 12 hours earlier, I was a bit worried about the planned Explore Park MTB ride scheduled for 10am on Thanksgiving Day. Snow and temperatures fell all afternoon Wednesday, creating a real mess of my bike commute home.

I was ready to wake to about 3 inches of white stuff on Thanksgiving morning. But much to my surprise, I lifted the blinds at about 8am to find not one flake had survived through the night. Temperatures had risen to a paltry 48 degrees and the sun was becoming brighter the more the morning wore on.

When we arrived at the parking lot, the wind had picked up and temps topped 50. It turned out to be the perfect day for a ride.

About ten of us set out to find the trails at Explore Park in great shape. We were all surprised that we didn't encounter more mud or slippery, wet leaves.

As the ride progressed, the group got smaller as folks had to turn around and return home to their turkeys. We rode about an hour and a half and all worked up a good appetite. This was the perfect way to make room for some holiday cheer. Hope to see ya'll again next Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Right on time

When I started using my bike to commute to work a few days each week, I quickly realized that using my $3000 road bike was not the best option. Pot holes, lots of road grime, leaves and sticks and such all over the greenway, and the fact that the riding position on a road bike is not very comfortable when carrying the extra weight of a messenger bag chock full of daily essentials, persuaded me to examine other bike options.

Enter Ron Glowczynski, owner of American Flyers bike shop and Team El Toreo compadre, with a sweet deal on a Fuji frame and fork that was collecting dust in his stash of stuff. I commissioned his wheel building expertise to assemble some nice hoops, ordered any parts I couldn't find in my parts bin, and ended up with the machine pictured here.

Shifting duties are carried out by a SRAM 8-speed push-push shifter and Ultegra deraileur. The wheels are centered around new XT Disc compatible hubs. No commuter would be complete with out some stylish white walls.

A nice long Control Tech stem (about ten years young) puts the bars in a comfy ride-to-work position. It's also the perfect perch for the Niterider battery pack that powers the bar mounted light. Oury grips provide a happy place for my hands.

Fenders on the frame and rear end keep a good deal of wet road sludge from splattering all over. I know because today was the commuter's maiden voyage, in the season's first snow squall. I couldn't imagine trying to get home in the slush on my road with 23c tires at 120 psi. The commuter was put into active duty right on time.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The expanding universe

If you're a cyclist living in the Roanoke valley of southwest Virginia, you've got to be excited about the recent news of expanding trails and greenways in the area.

More work was accomplished on the trail system at Mill Mountain on Saturday, November 19th. A new trail connecting the Car Trail to the Mill Mountain Discovery Center is about 99% complete. It consists of about a mile of twisty singletrack that leads riders past coyotes (at the Mill Mountain Zoo), through a nice stand of hardwoods, and through some technical challenges including tight switchbacks and leaf-covered rock gardens.

The park's trail system, which is within sight of downtown Roanoke, is now about five miles in length. Additional trails will be opening soon to push this total closer to about 8 miles. To those of you that live outside of Roanoke, that number may not seem like much. But keep in mind that we're talking about trails within minutes of the middle of Southwest Virginia's largest city.

More trails = more fun. Want proof? Checkout how much fun Pookie is having riding at Mill Mountain after working on new trails all morning. Soon mountain bikers will be enjoying the even further-expanded trail systems at Mill Mountain and Carvins Cove, as well as additions to Roanoke Valley Greenways.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Gotta love riding with the pros...

Pookie, TJ and me after our Pittsburgh urban assault ride.

I consider myself very fortunate to have several members of my family, immediate and otherwise, that enjoy cycling as much as I do. Most guys go riding to get away from their wives, I go riding to spend time with mine. My sister and her husband are also fond of bouncing down a trail on fat tires. And, nephew TJ Platt races pro for the Dirty Harry's/Gary Fisher team based in Pittsburgh.

A few weeks back we tagged along on TJ's Friday night jaunt through the streets, alleys and urban trails in and around Verona, PA where you can find the Dirty Harry's shop. No one has more fun riding his bike than TJ. Every ride is like a rolling stand-up comedy routine. Joining us was another Dirty Harry's/Gary Fisher team member and singlespeed semi-pro super-racer, Travis Saelor and a youngster named Eddie.

The first order of business was to make Eddie a bit more "street" by addressing him as E-double-D, or E-dub. We were quickly off to dodge traffic, jump curbs, and dart down some hidden trails that most locals probably don't even know exist. TJ and Travis banter back and forth the entire ride, as usual, with some hilarious dialog. Pookie grumbles that we're going too fast and she can't breathe. We are completely unsympathetic as usual - "lot's of people have asthma, hurry up!" E-dub just takes it all in, never saying much but riding strong for a 15 year old kid. TJ keeps forgetting he's on a fixed-gear and tries to bunny-hop over stuff without pedaling.

It's all over way too soon and we find ourselves back at the parking lot. Again I'm reminded that fun is what this mountain biking stuff is all about. TJ and Travis are always a blast to ride with and prove that to be among the best at something, you gotta love it - and these guys love to ride!

Friday, November 04, 2005

The freaks come out at night...

I kinda dig the time change each fall...only because it means more night rides! Trails that you know like the back of your hand become new again in the dark.

It's great when you get to introduce someone to night riding. Alan has been a regular on our Thursday night rides all summer. Now that daylight is at a premium, he's developing a nocturnal dirt habit as well. His handmade 20 watt helmet light and battery back is rockin'! I think the guy should go into business making sweet, inexpensive battery packs.

I'm having beam envy. I show up with a 15w halogen Jet Lite on my noggin, then Ron and Brian crank up there Light & Motion ARC lights and fry my retinas out. Gotta get me one of

Don't laugh. This is my cold weather commuter helmet. You could probably tell by the word "commuter" written in big letters on the side, eh? The redneck insulation keeps my noggin nice and toasty on those cold winter mornings. High visibility reflective tape helps me to stand out on the roadways after dark. Finally, pay close attention to the duct tape cable loop that keeps my helmet light cord from flapping around during my commute.

Funny. I wouldn't be caught wearing this thing during the day for fear of being laughed off of the road by my contemporaries, but I have no problem strapping it on after dark...cuz the freaks come out at night...


In a futile attempt to fly by flapping his arms really fast, Warren inadventantly learns to do a no-handed trackstand...