Sunday, December 31, 2006


Well, here it is the last day of 2006, and I ended the year only 5 pounds lighter than I was at the end of 2005. I was actually doing fairly well at dropping some weight until July, and then a number of changes in my life conspired against me... I really have no excuse though. I know I am just putting more into my body than I should be.

I have had a number of friends who have experienced some fantastic weight loss through cycling over the last 18 months, and it is my publicly stated intention to join them. I have committed to a number of people that I am going to succeed at reestablishing a healthy weight.

As of yesterday I was 238 lbs. This isn't the most I have weighed, but it is getting close. I also did a 3 mile time trial on my bike yesterday. My time was 10:13. I will be using this site to publicly report my progress as I as I move toward the following goals to be reached by August 1.

Weight < 193
TimeTrial < 8:30

This represents weight loss of 1.5 pounds a week on average for the next 30 weeks. The time trial goal would mean that I will be able to maintain a speed of 20-21 mph for 3 miles.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Classic Rock

I took a fun test on Classic Rock last night - it told me I was...
The Veteran
You scored 78%!

You've picked up the majority of the classic rock basics. You probably have a classic rock collection and can sing along with most of the songs on your local radio station.

This is not the highest score, but it is arguably the best: that subtle combination of impressive knowledge and not being a pretentious geek.

My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on notes
Link: The BASIC classic rock Test written by allmydays on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Jerry! Jerry!

Congratulations to Jerry Sloan, head coach of the Utah Jazz on becoming only the 5th NBA coach in history to reach 1,000 wins.

Some links:
Special Report(.pdf)
Article from the SL Tribune

Sloan has his critics, but he's had a fantastic career. He's been coach of the Jazz for 19 seasons, longer than any coach, not only in the NBA, but the NFL, MLB and NHL as well. His winning percentage is over 60%. And as a youth coach, I appreciate having Sloan as a proponent of disciplined, team-based basketball to serve as an example to the kids I coach.

Monday, December 04, 2006


I cannot believe how you can hit and kill a cyclist because you were downloading ringtones while driving and the worst you are charged with is Improper Lane Usage.

Here is a quote from the article:
[Matthew Wilhelm] 25-year-old former Champaign resident, a University of Illinois mechanical engineering graduate working for Caterpillar in Peoria, died on Sept. 8 from head injuries he received Sept. 2 when Stark hit him with her car because she was downloading ring tones to her cell phone instead of paying attention to driving.
And about the (completely inadequate) punishment:
State's Attorney Julia Rietz made the call not to lodge any more serious charge than improper lane usage against Stark, saying that the legal definition of recklessness, to sustain reckless homicide or reckless driving, did not fit her actions.

But Rietz argued for the maximum sentence of six months of conditional discharge a form of probation without reporting to an officer a $1,000 fine and traffic safety school.

"This is a tragic case and one which has demonstrated to us there are many things we can't adequately resolve in this building, unfortunately. The law doesn't give us an adequate remedy to address the loss to the Wilhelms and society," she said.

I can't believe how the State's Attorney could say: would be hard to prosecute 'willful and wanton' (behavior) and the driver could have 'no reasonable expectation of a bike on the side of the road,'
This is just one more example of how we as cyclists have less than second-class status on America's roadways.

Careful out there.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

What I Learned in San Antonio

I spent the last 4 days in San Antonio, TX participating as a trainer/presenter at a conference. Althought I used to travel as many as 14 times a year for work my travel schedule has been cut back to usually 3-5 trips for the last couple of years. I know there are a lot of frequent travellers out there with suggestions about how to beat long ticket lines, score the best rooms or speed through airport security, but I learned a couple of interesting lessons on this trip:

Lesson 1 - Where the heck am I?
Clearly, you should know what city you are visiting, what hotel you are staying in and major landmarks near your destination, but there is one more thing you might want to investigate. What county are you visiting?

"What county?" you ask, "Why would I need to know that?"

Here's why. One evening during my trip a very strong cold front moved through the area, triggering tornado warnings and watches from the National Weather Service. Now, I appreciate highly the work done by NWS and the Emergency Broadcast System. However, I have no earthly idea what county San Antonio is part of, or which counties it sits next to. So when the warning came on listing several counties, I didn't know whether to sit in the bathtub and cover my head, just keep watching the non-stop stream of Law and Order reruns on cable, or go out to the Itallian restaurant I had a hankering for.

Lesson 2 - Check The Weather At Home, Too
I checked for San Antonio before I left Salt Lake. Ahhhhhhhh! Temps in the mid 80's until late Wednesday or Thursday when I return. Excelent! I will wear a light fleece vest to the airport, pack it to San Antonio and I'll be great.


I got of the plane in Salt Lake today and was met with temps in the low 20's. I had a long walk in the economy parking lot to my truck, in which I had no scrapper to remove the 4 inches of snow and ice. Gotta check that hometown weather for the return date next time.

Lesson 3 - Frequent Stay Programs are Great!
When I checked into the Westin Riverwalk (and excellent hotel) I was greated by Marissa. I asked for a non-smoking room and when she said the entire hotel was non-smoking I joking said, "Well, I'll take a big room then." At that point she asked me if I was a member of Starwood Rewards, looked up my number and told me that on my last stay I became a "gold" member of the program. She then became my favorite hotel employee of the year when she said "I have a suite available for you at no additional charge".

Suite? Sweeeeet!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Ten Little Steps

This post is not about turning your life around, although in a way it might be. And it's not about creating the ultimate Thanksgiving dish, yet that plays a part as well.

I read an article on the behavioral differences between fit and obese people several years ago. I wish I could find the reference, but the main point was this: People who are not fit, or obese find a bunch of little ways that they conserve energy. They don't get up as much when they work at a desk, they don't fidget, and they don't walk if they can avoid it.

The Story
This evening I found myself at the local big box supermarket. I went there to pick up some model paint, thinner and a snack for Mrs. GeekCyclist. It was a madhouse on account of all the people picking up dinner stuff.

On the way out I was behind a guy with a cart. In the cart was a box containing a single pair of boots. That's it; that's all he bought and he was pushing this pair of shoes to his car in a cart. As it turned out he was parked next to me, and I was parked next to the cart return. He put the box in the trunk and then proceeded to leave the cart between our cars.

That's right, rather than walk the ten steps to put the cart in the return, he left it between our cars. I looked around the parking lot and was amazed at the number of carts strewn all over the lot.

The Point
We constantly hear about people wanting to lose weight and get fit. But we have a society where we think our convenience is worth more than the time it takes to walk 10 steps. We believe that it's okay to take shortcuts or make decisions that go counter to anything we are trying to accomplish.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Living in Utah

I have lived most of my life in Utah, which leaves me feeling like I should answer the three most common questions I get about my home state.

1. Yes, I am a member of the predominant religious community, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the "Mormons".

2. No, I have never skied at Snowbird, Alta, Park City, etc, etc. In fact I have never skied other than a couple of cross-country excursions on rented equipment.

2. No, I have never ridden the Slickrock Trail, or anything else in Moab. I have never really mountain biked anything.

So, why do I live here? To begin with, I feel at home among the mountains. While I don't ski or mtn bike, I was an avid rock climber for years, and I continue to log about 25 nights of camping or backpacking every year. I like to hike. I find nearly every part of the state that I have visited to be relatively hospitable to road cycling.

I have a great job with state government. I have been there for almost 15 years, and I enjoy what I do. It's nice to feel like the programs and projects I work on can really make a difference in someone's life.

Changing My Answers
The funny thing is, I am feeling more and more inclined to change my answers to numbers 2 and 3. (Sometimes dumb things done in the name of religion make me think about changing my answer to number 1 as well, but that's a topic for a different post).

I don't really have the time, money or desire to get into downhill skiing, but I'd really like to supplement my normal winter activities with some cross country skiing or snowshoeing. I actually have a pair of snowshoes I made as a boy scout in about 1985. I figure I could get a x-skiing package for under $200 and I think even Mrs. GeekCyclist might like that.

Even more enticing is the idea of mountain biking. I have a rigid frame mountain bike that I bought in the early '90s but I have converted it to a commuter with high pressure slicks, rack and fenders. But over on one of my favorite blog, Elden, the FatCyclist, (who by some strange quirk of mathematics and physics weighs about 60 lbs less than me), has posted a 4 part series on his trip to Moab. This is another area where I think I could entice Mrs. GeekCyclist to participate. She acually has a Giant hardtail that doesn't get much use, but she has ridden the Jordan River Parkway trail with me.

I am not sure I have ever seen anything that looks more fun. I have found my reason to want a new bike...

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A week with no rides

It's been over a week since I last rode. In fact, last Friday I started doing a major tuneup on my mountain bike primarily because I knew I wasn't going to get to ride this week. I overhauled the hubs of both my main wheels and my backup pair, and threw both cassettes in a bucket of degreaser. That's where they have been for a week now.

Besides just being generally busy I went to Milwaukee to testify in the sentencing hearing for this case. The couple got 48 months for immigration and indentured servitude violations, which seems low considering they held a domestic servant 'captive' for almost 20 years. Then again, they are Filipino citizens which means when they get out of jail they will almost certainly be deported. I was called to testify about the back wages owed to the servant (almost 3/4 of a million dollars.)

Wrong Plane
A funny thing happened on the way to Milwaukee though. I had to fly to Denver to connect through to Milwaukee. It was one of these small Canadair Regional Jets that hold 40-50 people; one where to board you usually exit the airport and walk across the tarmac to the plane.

At the Denver Airport all of the similar small jet flights use the same main gate, and then you walk down some stairs and through a long hallway with doors labeled A-N. They have people with clipboards checking tickets etc.

As the time approached for our flight to push back, I was commenting to the man seated across the aisle that we may have gotten very lucky since we were the only two people on the plane seated in rows with empty seats. Just then a frazzled woman came rushing on the plane and sat down next to me.

We chatted briefly as the plane took off, and then I returned to my book. After about 30 minutes the pilot came on the intercom and did the spiel about our altitude, the weather and the expected flight time to Milwaukee. "Jill" tapped me on the shoulder and with a shocked expression said, "Is this plane really going to Milwaukee?" Of course I said yes, to which she responded "I not going to Milwaukee. I'm going to Indianapolis." To which I responded "Not without going to Milwaukee first..."

The funny thing was that her ticket was for a seat in row 13; my row. Had she held a ticked for any other row there would not have been vacant seats and it is likely the flight attendants would have put her on the right plane.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Counting Votes

A Close Race
I know people who never vote because they say their vote can't make a difference. I know others who have this vision of their vote being that one vote that puts their candidate over the top. I think that sometimes both viewpoints have some validity.

In the great state of Utah I have a hard time seeing how my vote in a presidential election can make a difference when this is the reddest of the red states. I think in '92 not only did the former President Bush beat Clinton, but Perot did too.

On the other hand, we are in the midst of a recount in my state House of Representatives district. Our incumbent representative ended the election 25 votes behind the challenger. 25 votes seems to me like the equivalent of one evening shaking hands, 2-4 well placed lawn signs, or maybe an hour of calls from a poll watcher.

It is insane how this race has gone, especially when it looks like the challenger spent about $50k on the race while the incumbent spent about $15k. I like the incumbent, but I think our representation could be better. I strongly disagree with the challenger on multiple issues that are important to me, and with the amount of money she spent I am worried about her ties to several special interest groups I despise, but I think she would at least be a passionate advocate for our area.

It may be December before we find out who won.

Voting on Two Wheels
I rode to the polls; twice actually. I tried to vote early last Friday but when I got to the location the wait was about two hours. So on Tuesday I left the house about 5 after 7 in the morning and rode to the local elementary school. I was a little discouraged because I overslept and was afraid of the lines I would encounter. As it turns out I was done and back on my bike riding to work within 30 minutes.

Voting For Two Wheels
There were three propositions on the ballot, all of which dealt with parks, transportation and open space. They all three passed, which I am happy about. What I would really like to see is more discussion of complete streets and safe routes to school.

I don't know how much of an impression my showing up at the polls in cycling clothing made, but I know I am a little 'famous' both in the neighborhood and at work for commuting by bike. I know when I first started my 13-15 mile one-way commute seems like a really long way. Now, I can't imagine not doing it long term, and if I go more than a day or two without riding I can's stand it.

So, to my 3 loyal readers, a question. What should I do to help make cycling a more viable alternative in the Salt Lake City area?

Monday, November 06, 2006


A few nights ago was Meet the Candidate night at the local high school. There are some interesting local races including those for my district's state Senator and Representative. So I packed up the kids and off we went.

I got to talk to several candidates and made up my mind about a few races. The best thing was the chance to talk to policy and lawmakers about the concerns of a commuting cyclist.

I asked several candidates, "A legislator once told me that he was sensitive to the needs of cyclists. What do you think the needs of cyclists are?" The answers tended to flow around the idea of a recreational cyclist. The focus was on parks, trails and the like.

I was really pleased when two candidates seemed to really grasp the idea of cycling as transportation. They each talked about wider streets, better enforcement of the Josie Johnson Law. It gave me a chance to talk about Complete Streets and Safe Routes to School.

I was also able to share the major frustration of the commuting cyclist in western Salt Lake County - crossing.

On my typical routes to work I have to cross two high speed divided highway (SR 201 and Bangerter Highway), two or three interstate highways (I-15 and I-215 at least, and sometimes I-80), a river, and multiple sets of grade-level train tracks. At one set of tracks that crosses the 800 South bike route it seems like once I week I am blocked by a stopped or veeerrrrryyyy slow moving train working it's way through downtown.

I moved to my current home about 10 years ago, and since then the population has at least doubled in this area. The development has made nearly unridable three of the roads I used to ride frequently. One of the roads I have switched to is fairly good, but also has the old-style, wheel-swallowing sewer grates every few hundred feet. There is a parkway next to the river that now has an underpass below SR 201 (thank you SL County), but it suffers from an infestation of southwest thorns.

I recognize that I live in the 'wide open west' and that people out here have a love affair with their cars, especially the gas-guzzling, huge-family carrying SUV's. But I want to get the message across - I am only trying to get to work on time, just like you. I'd like to be able to get there more or less in a straight shot, similar to what I could do if I drove. And I'd like a little patience from motorists when on rare occasions I am forced to take the lane. Remember, I'm not blocking traffic, I am traffic.

So - I am going to vote bicycling as much as I can. There are a lot of other things important to my vote as well, but I only get one and commuting coupled with open space preservation are touchstones to me. It may not be much, but thats how I plan to contribute on election day.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Epic Commute

I know, I know; "epic" is not a word you would typically use to describe commuting to work on a bicycle. But there is no word better suited to my commute this morning.

To understand what happened today you need to know that when I crashed in July I broke the pump bracket on my road bike. I also switched a few weeks ago from my road bike to my winter commuter, an old rigid mountain bike, so I haven't been riding the road bike much lately.

Today when I woke up there was a cold front bearing down on Salt Lake City, with a strong wind out of the west. I rarely get a tailwind on my commute, so when I saw this I was pretty excited. I figured if I used the road bike I could break 40 minutes for my commute.

So - putting 2 and 2 together I am sure you can figure out what happened. About 3 miles from home, cruising along at 25 mph with the fantastic tailwind, I picked up a shank in my tire. That's when I remembered that I didn't have my pump re-mounted. No problem, I'll just use the Ultraflate CO2 inflater I have in my seat bag...the one I left on my mountain bike.

I was a little over a mile from a bus stop, so I hoofed it up there, only to see the bus go by when I was about a block away. That meant a 20 minute wait for the next bus. Then, when I got to the TRAX light rail station the train was already there, so there was no way I could get my bike off the bus and to the train in time. That meant another 15 minute wait.

All in all it took me 2:10 to make it to work when it usually takes about 50-55 minutes by bike, and about 20 minutes by car.

Lesson learned.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Morning Meditations

I rode to work this morning for the first time in a while it seems. It's amazing to me how much better I feel, and how much clearer I think while and after I ride. This morning I passed a truck with Hexel something printed on the side. That got me thinking about numbering and different numerical bases (this is the geek part of GeekCyclist). I am a computer programmer by trade, but my training was in Economics, so I never really got that base of computer science.

Anyway, I'm tooling down the road off in numerical la-la-land thinking about hexadecimal and finally realizing how hex, octal and binary are all related and why so much of what I encounter in programming deals with hex. And then it hit me...I finally got the joke.

You see, there is a shirt that says "How many people can read hex if only you and dead people can read hex?" Now, I get the one that says "There are only 10 kinds of people, those who understand binary and those who don't." But I am sorry to say I never got the hex one until this morning. I am not going to reveal the whole thing to you, but you can see a sample of a shirt and a hint here.

Right after that was when the truck almost killed me.

I was still in la-la-land a little; cruising on a through street that makes the top of a T with another street. My road/lane has no stop sign, the intersecting street does. A truck passed me and the intersection, and a truck waiting at the stop sign pulled out right in front of me.

Yes, it was 6:45 AM which is pretty dark right now in SLC. But I had both bulbs of my headlight going, for about 18 watts of power. I had two rear blinkies going (not that the truck driver could see those). I had on a white helmet, a jacket with reflective piping, and two reflective ankle straps on. I think I am pretty visible.

We both skidded to a halt, and then, miracle of miracles, he rolled down his window and instead of yelling at me, said "Sorry for pulling out in front of you and scaring the #### out of you."

Honestly, I don't think it was that he didn't see me. I think drivers are so accustomed to seeing kids and grown-ups on heavy, cheap bikes that are moving at 8-10 mph, that they are literally shocked at how fast a serious cyclist approaches an intersection. I was doing somewhere between 17 and 21 mph, and I think he just assumed he would clear the intersection before I got there.

I told him thanks, and no harm done, and clipped back in as he pulled off, at which point the next car at the stop sign pulled out into my path as well - him I yelled at...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Heading South to the Swell

This weekend I am taking a group of Boy Scouts to the San Rafael Swell in central Utah. The kids are all out of school Thursday and Friday this week. Being able to leave on Thursday make it a much nicer trip than out typical Friday night to Saturday overnighter.

I really like this area. We have gone twice before and hiked Bell and Little Wild Horse canyons near Goblin Valley State Park. We are going to camp in the same area but are going to hike Crack and Chute canyons. When I say these are narrow, red-rock slot canyons I am sure most Utahns know what I am talking about, but for those of you in other parts of the world, here are some pictures from our trip in October of last year.

The Wave

Sun in the Narrows

Utah is a Desert?

The Only Guy to Stay Dry

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Don't Touch That Barrel Adjuster

A friend of mine came to me at work and asked if I would take a look at his bike. He said he was having trouble with his rear shifting when moving from smaller to larger cogs. To begin with, this is the opposite of what I normally see. Usually you have a dirty or kinked cable and the added friction messes up your shifting going from larger to smaller cogs.

Before getting really into adjustments, I suggested:
  1. Using a spray or foam degreasser, apply to the chain, derailleurs and the front chain rings. Let sit for 10-20 min and then using a toothbrush and a small amount of degreaser attack the chain and derailleur pivots with a vengeance.
  2. Remove the rear wheel and clean the cassette using the degreaser.
  3. Wipe the chain before replacing the rear wheel.
  4. Apply a _light_ coat of your favorite lube to the chain and the pivots.
Sure - a good cleaning won't fix a serious mechanical problem, but it's amazing how often just cleaning the chain, cables and pivots will fix sloppy shifting.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Modify Your Environment

If I haven't said it before, I work as a computer programmer for a government agency. We were recently reorganized, shuffled and moved, and I found myself in a much smaller cubicle in a much noisier space.

As a geek-bureaucrat I realize I will never have an office like this. Then again, I never expected to work in an area where my noise-canceling headphone don't seem to make the slightest dent in the din. On top of that they are re-routing power to the server room and one of the primary junctions is below the elevated floor right under my chair. For the last week there has been drilling and clanking all hours of the day.

The worst though was the size and configuration of the cube. It is basically 6 x 8 with a U-shaped desk and typical corner pieces. I had been in a space that was about 9 x 11. But it's not the size, it is the shape. We try to be "agile" and "XP" centered in our programming methods, which means spending some time most days doing pair programming. In the new digs, it was impossible for two people to work at the same computer. You couldn't fit two chairs into the U, and you were crammed together so close that neither person could breath.

Last week my boss and I were working on a particularly sticky task, and had been for most of the morning when I finally snapped. I stood up and asked if anyone had a screwdriver. I proceeded to remove half of the U, an action which generated no shortage of interest in our little cube farm. Once I had it torn apart and the pieces stacked outside my cubicle I sent a message to building services that I needed a straight desk section to replace the three sections I had removed. They said they would see what they could do, at which point I said, "I don't care how long it takes to install the new parts, but you need to send someone up to pick up the old parts because I already took it apart."

Just after lunch they had my desk put back together. It's not perfect, and it's still as noisy a poolhall half the time, but at least two people can work together without feeling like you need to get a marriage license.

The bike section - Removing and Installing grips
Most of my posts have something to do with bikes, so I thought I better add something. Over the last two weeks I have switched from my nicer road bike to my old, beater mountain bike as my primary commuter.

I learned a neat trick while switching the grips and bar-ends on the mountain bike. I slipped a narrow screwdriver under the grip and gave the gap one shot of Simple Green spray cleanser. Two or three twists and the grips came right off.

When you are trying to get grips back on, use a little AquaNet or other "super-hold" hair spray. While it is wet the grip will slide right back on. When the hair spray dries it will hold the grip in place.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Out of the Political Closet

I had a letter to the editor of the Salt Lake Tribune printed today - I guess I am now out of the closet as the "radical left-wing democrat" that I am. Although that is only in relation to the majority here in Utah that in spite of all that has happened is still the strongest supporter of the current administration. Embarrassing. I think in most of the rest of the country I would be seen as a left leaning moderate, but who knows.

Read the letter here.

{Update 03/02/2007 - Unless you have archive access the link above no longer works so below is the text of the original letter. I don't remember if/how it was edited by the paper.}

A banner hanging downtown reads, "We feel safer because President Bush is in
charge." Let me state clearly that this banner does not reflect my
view, nor should it reflect the view of most Americans.

During the Bush Presidency we have:
- Trembled as family members marched to wars that have no clear
objective or timeline and that serve to incite and inflame our
- Heard of the torture of prisoners in foreign lands and in American bases.
- Seen the loss of civil liberties, and privacy protections guaranteed
by the constitution yet ignored under presidential fiat.
- Witnessed decreased tolerance, the government funding of
"faith-based" initiatives, and an erosion of both the separation
of Church and State and the founder's ideals of plurality.
- Watched as the religious right and so called "Christian Nationalists"
successfully mandate the teaching of revisionist history and science
in our schools, eroding the principles of reasoned scholarship and

Under the leadership of President Bush, we watched the towers fall,
and the rise of the political culture of fear. I certainly don't feel
safer because President Bush is in charge.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Back To The Site Of The Crash

Friday NeilK, JuniorSprinter and I went for a ride up emigration Canyon. The plan was to park near the zoo and ride over the Little Mountain Summit and continue on to Big Mountain. As usual when the grade gets steeper or longer than the average highway overpass, NK and JS rode away from me easily and early. So I had a while to meditate on my experience the last time I rode down the canyon.

On the way up I stopped for a minute in the area where I bought it. It turns out that there must be a fairly significant number of crashes in the area because I was able to see a handful of bike parts in the grass and rocks. Mostly is was reflector parts, but there was a pump head and what looked like a derailleur pulley.

I continued to the Little Mountain Summit, down past Little Dell Reservoir and about halfway up the climb to Big Mountain when I turned around. I figured the others would have reached the summit and be turning around about then. I made it back up to Little Mountain a little before they did and had a few minutes to prepare myself mentally for the coming descent...

I was slow going down. It's going to be a while before I get my "descending chops" back.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Running Red Lights

I work very near the center of Salt Lake City, Utah. So the end of my commute entails passing through several urban intersections. The other day on my ride in I was approaching a corner where I turn right, and I had a green light. As I got closer another cyclist came straight through the intersection against the red. I turned, passed him, and then stopped at the next intersection because the light was red. The other cyclist came up next to me and we said hello, then as the traffic thinned but with the light still red he blew through and went his way. My bike parking area was mid-block after the light so that was the last of our interaction. But it left a bad taste in my mouth, and I wonder what I should have done. I can never think of the right thing to say in the spur of the moment.

I wanted to say, "You know, when you run a red light like that, not only are you breaking the law, and endangering your life, you are irritating motorists which endangers my life." I'm just not sure saying anything would have made a difference.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Friends Accident

My younger son is a Cub Scout, and tonight was pack meeting. It was being held at a local park and we expected it to go past dark so instead of riding there my son and I drove. We passed a friend stopped talking to a policeman just as we entered the park. As it turns out this friend had just hit a young girl on a bike.

It looks like the consensus from witnesses is that it was a typical kids "ride-out" type of accident. The girl turned off the sidewalk and rode directly into the path of oncoming traffic. She was ok, but my friend was understandably upset.

The funny thing is that yesterday I attended the board meeting of the Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective and one of the main topics was getting the LAB kids bike safety course in front of as many kids as possible.

To Parents
Parents, please teach your kids that bicycles are vehicles, not toys. I know you found that shiny aluminum full-suspension mountain bike in the toy section of Wal-Mart. They just don't know any better.

Teach them to "drive" their bikes, not ride them. Teach them to signal, to ride with traffic, to behave like a car.

Make them wear helmets, and put lights on the bikes if they ever ride in the twilight hours.

Most collisions are easily preventable.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Blogger Beta

When I heard that Google had purchased Blogger I don't think it fazed me at all. But I was looking at the new beta interface and I am getting really excited to make the switch. There are details here but these are some of the highlights I am looking forward to:
  • New color and font options. I do c# web developement for my job, so I know changing the look and feel of a site is not that hard. But it takes time that I just don't have.
  • Categorized posts. Several other services have had this for a long time. I hesitate to do IT or backpacking or other posts becuase I think most of "you" come here for the cycling related stuff. I think with categories I will be more willing to open up the other topics.
  • Better feed options. I have had trouble with a long lag on my RSS feed. I hope this takes care of it.
All I have to do now is wait for my site to get flagged by the powers that be so I can convert it.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Infrequent Rides

I have had a very hard time getting on the bike for the last month. The following is my list of excuses:
  • Since the crash I haven't quite gotten my road bike back into rideable condition. I replaced the derailleur, but I need to replace the cable as well.
  • I went to California on business, then to Idaho for boy scout camp.
  • My wife's uncle passed away unexpectedly, so we had family in town for about 10 days.
  • I've just gotten lazy.
But I rode my bad weather old mountain commuter home yesterday and felt great doing it. Unfortunately (for my biking) I am leaving on a short backpacking trip on Thursday, so that's probably it for my riding this week.

I think what I need is another big ride to serve as a fall goal like the MS-150 does in the spring. I am thinking about one of these:
That last one would be cool. It's about 120 miles from my house to the StateLine Casino. I have wanted to do this for a few years. I would have my wife drive out that afternoon to meet me there and drive back after spending the night.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Some Cycling Photos

NeilK has been packing a digital camera around with him on our rides. I have gotta catch up in the gadget race eventually.

GeekCyclist and JuniorSprinter at the MS-150

JS at the top of Little Mountian - Salt Lake City, UT

Both of us on the summit - I'd smile but I am trying to eat a clif bar.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Put it in the ditch.

I tried to think of some snappy lyrics to the tune of "Puttin' on the Ritz", but the best I could do was the title because my head hurts too much.

NeilK, JuniorSprinter and I took off from downtown Salt Lake around 3:30 and headed up Emigration Canyon to Little Mountain. The other two left me quickly on the uphills, and I just tried to motor on at my own pace. After a few minutes at the summit, we headed back down. I love this descent. It's fast, and just twisty enough to be a true thrill.

For the first time, JS passed my during one of the straights, and as we approached a tight hairpin turn I overtook him on the inside. Then I realized I was in trouble. I hit the brakes hard, slid a little off the back, but couldn't avoid going into the "ditch" on the uphill side of the road. I know I bounced a couple of times, and the right side of the bike is a little scratched up, as is the derailleur.

But it's the helmet that gets to me. My head does hurt, but that pic only shows a little of the damage sustained by my one month old helmet. I am so glad I had it on. Most of the back half of the helmet is cracked and destroyed.

I'm basically okay. I've got a little road rash on both legs, and some scrapes and bruises on my hip and shoulders. Still, one look at the helmet (I can't quit) tells me it could have been much worse.

I think JuniorSprinter may have been shaken up worse than I was. After I got up and we started back down the canyon, I don't think he peddled at all. This is a guy who went down hard at the ms-150 two weeks ago and wanted to keep going on a tacoed wheel. I guess it's different when dad turfs it.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Saturday's MS-150 Route

NeilK from the Big Mountain post, rode with JuniorSprinter and I for about 2/3 of the ride on Saturday. He had his fancy GPS and has uploaded the ride stats to the MotionBased site.

Utah MS-150 Weekend

Thank you to everyone who donated to JuniorSprinter (I don't know if he is ever going to blog again) and I for our second Annual MS-150 ride. Together we raised $1,229 for MS research as support programs.

The ride is held every year in Cache Valley (Logan) Utah. JS and I rode the 100 mile century route on the first day again this year. It is a fantastic, mostly flat, route that winds its way north into Idaho for a while before returning to the fair park in Logan. When we did it last year, the extra loop you rode to complete the century had only one stop on it. This year they moved the rest stop a little, and added two water stops which were a nice touch. We both finished much stronger than we did last year.

Our plan was to ride the long route on Sunday, which would have given us a total of 175 miles over the two days. We were both riding very strong and were helping to lead a solidly moving pace line of about 12 people. As we entered Hyrum, Utah near the 50 mile mark, we made a left, a right and then saw a support vehicle with a ride volunteer pointing that we needed to make another quick left. As the group spread out and started to slow down, JS got stuck in the middle a little bit, hit some road damage funny and severely bent his front wheel.

Elementary physics indicates that when you are going 18 mph, and the front of the bike stops, the rest of the bike keeps going. JS was thrown over the front of the bike and onto the road. We then got
to meet several medics and the staff at Logan Regional Medical center. The medical and ride staffs both did a gread job taking care of him. He tucked and rolled as well as you could, but he still suffered a partial separation of his left shoulder. He has sizable road-rash patches on his shoulder blade, upper and lower right arm, left hip, and a large bruise and road rash on his right knee.

He will be hurting for a while. He will also be off the bike for a week or so, which is good because it will take that long for me to fix the wheel or find him a new one, install a new handlebar (he bent the old on in the crash as well) and bar tape, and make the other fixes to get the bike ridable again.

I later heard that same section of road, less than 400 meters long, ended up being the location of two other serious crashes. But I can't fault the MS-150 staff. They did a great job the whole weekend, and even if that area could have been signed better, there is no way to know if that would have prevented the crashes, and you can't fault them for road damage. After JS crashed we had a staffer with us the whole time until we left the hospital. They were really great.

Friday, June 23, 2006


Because of the blog template thing where the link was gone, and the fact that the MS-150 is tomorrow, I sent out a bunch of last minute emails last night begging for donations.

I have been shocked and humbled by the generosity of most people I have contacted. It is amazing to me how much some family, friends and acquaintances have been willing to donate to this cause. It has made me re-evaluate the way I approach my charitable giving.

I have done this ride in the past and always enjoyed it as a fun ride and a nice way to raise money for a good cause. It has to be the best supported ride in the state, and we are part of a team that is fantastic and fun. But when I found out last fall that one of my sisters was diagnosed with MS it became a big deal to me to take the fundraising seriously.

It seems that this year people have come out of the woodwork, some just donating out of the goodness of their hearts, and some donating because they have some connection to MS.

To all of you who donated, let me say a very heartfelt and humble "thank you". JuniorSprinter and I have raised over $1,100 as of this morning, and I know there are at least a few additional donations trickling in.

We leave for Logan later today, and are planning on riding the long course both days for a total of 175 miles. Assuming I survive I will try and post an update on how the ride went Sunday night.

Test in Multiple Browsers

I am a computer programmer by trade, and do most of my work on web-based applications. So you would think that I would be well versed in web testing and browser compatibility problems...

As you can hopefully see in the header now I am trying to raise funds for the Utah MS-150 Bike Tour. I have been sending out emails and letters telling people that to sponsor me they can visit the blog and click on the link.

Then yesterday I got a call from my brother wanting to know what the link was. I told him to visit the GeekCyclist and look in the header. He called back a few minutes later and told me he couldn't find it. So I jumped on and took a look using Firefox - everything looked great. Then I opened IE.

(cue scary music)
My blog looked HORRIBLE in IE!

There was no link in the header - in fact, there was no real header. All the side bar links were displayed below the posts. The background color was incorrect and the curved graphics were in the wrong places. I loaded the template into EditPlus (my favorite editor) and messed with it for about 2 hours, but I never did discover what had happened. I finally rebuilt it from backup.

Today I learned... That I have to test ALL my web projects in my browser test bed. Even my trivial blog with only 3 readers (thanks, each of you).

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Big Mountain

JuniorSprinter came down and met me at work on Friday. He, NeilK and I left work early to go ride. We drove up and parked just west of Hogle Zoo and headed up Emigration Canyon. I haven't ridden this canyon in about a year, and I have never been past the Little Mountain summit. From there you can ride down the back side and then either connect with I-80 in Parley's Canyon, or turn left and ride up to Big Mountain. I go slow up anything bigger than an overpass, so until Friday, I had always turned around at the first summit.

To Little Mountain
The ride starts at about 4,800 feet and in 8.5 miles it climbs to a pass at about 6,250 feet. JS and NeilK rode away from me almost as soon as we started, but I expected that. I tried to ride within my ability and just keep a constant tempo maybe just a little out of my comfort zone. The canyon kind of rises in steps so you can recover after some brief hard pushes.

The view from the summit is great. After a brief rest (for me; the guys were waiting for a while I'm sure) we headed down the back side. It was a quick 2-2.5 mile descent on which we gave back about 300 feet.

To Big Mountain
The climb to the Big Mountain Summit was beyond anything I have every done. I hung with the other two for the first mile or so, while the grade was pretty mild. The four miles to the summit are an almost constant 7-7.5% grade by the estimation of NeilK's GPS. About half-way up I was really struggling, almost unable to ride in a straight line. I was going so slow I was shocked that my cyclometer was still picking up my speed since the wheels were turning so slowly. That's when I saw...

The Rock
It wasn't a huge rock; maybe the size of my clamshell flip phone. If I was on the flats I wouldn't have worried about it. I was thinking, "gotta miss the rock" when I hit it straight on. BAM! I came to a dead stop. It was alright though; I needed the rest. I gave myself about 3 minutes for my heart rate to come back down before I started up again. I think that JS and NeilK had been at the summit at least 20 minutes before I made it up. I was totally cooked, but in the best way.

The ride back was good. There was the little climb back up to the first summit, and though my quads were toast, I kept the other two in sight at least, and I almost caught them on the descent. JS is getting a lot better at going down.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Today I Learned...

I have been talking to a coworker about taking a stack of 3x5 cards and writing on them "Today I learned" and whatever new and exciting tidbit that entered my brain that day. It was mostly a joke about how overwhelming it can be to try and stay on top of things in the IT field.

But now that I have had this idea in my head for a few days, I am starting to think that it would be a neat thing to do for a while. I think that if you reach the end of a day and haven't either learned something new, or helped someone in need, you might as well have stayed in bed.

So, what did I learn today?

Today I learned...
That when you are checking a tire for the object that just caused you to flat, DO NOT stop just because you found something you think caused the puncture. You have to check the whole tire.
On my long ride into work, I flatted at about the 10 mile mark, found two little "goathead" stickers that I removed and went my merry way. Then I flatted again less than a mile later. This time I checked the tire more thoroughly, and found the piece of glass that had cut the tire. I made a quick boot and finished my ride, but I realized I could have saved myself a big headache if I had checked the whole tire the first time.

Take the Long Road

People frequently ask me how to fit in training for a long charity ride or a century. I have never been good at doing training rides during the week. The bulk of my training has always been commuting.

But the core change I have made this year is to "take the long road home". Actually I more frequently take the long road to work, but I couldn't pass up a Supertramp reference. My normal commute ride is between 13-15 miles. Now 30 mile round trip is nothing to scoff at, but it's just not the same as 30 miles in one chunk. So now what I have started doing is riding from my home in the west side of the Salt Lake valley, to Saltair on the Great Salt Lake, and then into work. Depending on route variations I get between 27 and 33 miles, with options to go longer.

I do have to leave fairly early in order to arrive at work at a decent time, but I find that I am more consistent if I schedule long rides to work, instead of long rides home. Riding home it's too easy to wimp out.

Another advantage to riding long in the morning is the cooler temps, and less traffic. Although, for those who are familiar with the SR 202 and the I-80 frontage road between Saltair and the airport I have one comment. There is WAY more traffic on these roads at 6-7 AM on a weekday than there is any time on a Saturday. Construction on SR 201 has all westbound traffic routed across 202 to the interchange by Saltair. The shoulder sucks for about 3/4 of a mile...

Thursday, June 01, 2006

A Perfect Commute

I am not sure if I have ever had this happen before. My commute home was perfect. I am not talking about the weather, or the wind, which were a little to warm and a little to strong respectively. I am talking about the cars.

Commuting back and forth to downtown Salt Lake City it seems like every day I have to deal with one or more of the following:
  • Getting "buzzed" or squeezed to the shoulder.
  • Cars double parked, or parked in the bike lane.
  • Getting honked at or yelled at in the areas where I have to take the lane.
Just basically the typical commuting stuff. It bothered me when I started, but I basically ignore it. But today was perfect. Even on the rural road where I have to ride in the lane for about a mile I was given a wide berth by all the motorists. It was amazing.

Maybe it was the jersey. My wife gave me a Discovery Team jersey for christmas. Sure, it's a little uncomfortable wearing it as I putz along at 15-18 mph on my loaded touring bike. I know I got some double-takes. But as I got close to home I started to wonder, "Are the cars giving me more room because they recognize Lance's jersey?"

There is no way to really test for the Lance effect on my commute, but it is an interesting thought.

Three Parking Spaces

I was riding home yesterday, still in downtown SLC. All of a sudden a pickup truck stops right next to a lane of parked cars at a corner and lets a woman out. I had nowhere to go because of traffic on the left and parked cars on the right, so I just slowed to a near trackstand while I waited for him to move.

He pulled forward past three parked cars, stopped again and backed into the parking space. I couldn’t believe it. To save his passenger 60 feet of walking, he backed up traffic twice.

Some people in this country are incredibly lazy. Unbelievable…

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Cross Training

That's what I call it when I can't find time to actually ride, but I somehow manage to do something else active.

I volunteer as a scoutmaster, so one night a week I am involved in a scout troop meeting, and about one weekend a month we go on some kind of campout. This weekend we incorporated some light backpacking on our overnighter. We camped at the Loop Campground in South Willow Canyon, near Grantsville, UT. The convenient thing about this campground is that it is at the top of the canyon almost exactly 4 miles from where you enter the Forest Service Boundary. One of the requirements for the Camping Merit Badge is that you backpack 4 miles.

So mid-afternoon on Friday we parked a Suburban I had borrowed from a neighbor and filled with scouts, unloaded equipment and took off up the canyon. It's not flat by any means, gaining 1500+ feet in the four miles, but it's not that steep either.

Some things you learn on an overnight backpacking trip with scouts:
  • At least on kid will be complaining about his pack weight, fit, the distance, etc. before you are 500 feet from the vehicle.
  • 4 out of 10 will not be adequately prepared with the proper outerwear for the weather.
  • Someone will always be playing in the campfire.
  • It's hard to let the kids learn things for themselves sometimes when it would be so much easier to do stuff yourself.
  • Kids expect to be entertained. It's not enough to be outdoors, some kids have to have everything dictated to them.
Clearly this doesn't have a lot to do with cycling, but I can tell you that my legs hurt today. After backpacking to the site with the kids, I later hiked back down to the Suburban to bring it up to the site. Then the next morning we hiked about 3 miles into the Deseret Peak Wilderness Area, for a 6 mile round trip. So for the weekend I did about 14-15 miles of hiking (at an altitude near 8000 feet no less). Today it feels like my calves are just slapping against the back side of my shins with every step...

I'm not going to have a chance to ride tomorrow either, so I hope the crosstraining and the rest pays off.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Cycle Salt Lake Century

JuniorSprinter and I went to ride the Cycle Salt Lake Century Saturday morning. It is a fantastic ride from the State Fair Park in Salt Lake City, to Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake and back. It is about as flat as a ride can get here in the intermountain west.

Everything looked like it was going to be a great day. We met a friend (WI) from work who was planning on riding with us. Saw another friend from work with his team all decked out, ready to hammer. Then the ride started...

JuniorSprinter Spits Out A Lung
JuniorSprinter has been sick most of the week. He was feeling better on Friday, and had started eating again, but I was already worried about being able to do the full century. As soon as the ride started he began coughing. A couple of doses from the rescue inhaler helped a little, but he wasn't doing well. So at the first rest area we made the decision that the century was out, but we would try to push to the second rest area and do the 67 mile option.

GeekCyclist Was Stupid
I don't know how many times I have told people, don't make changes before the big ride. I even talked myself out of replacing the bar tape and switching seats from my mountain bike to the road. But I couldn't resist. I had picked up a nearly new wheel set for the road, and it already had an 11-28 cassette on it. My old rear wheel has had a bunch of spokes replaces and I have a hard time keeping it trued. I had to swap it out. BIG MISTAKE!

When I got to the ride I noticed a little "thumping" as I rode to the start. I figured it was just the repairs in the parking lot. But as the ride started, the thumping stayed constant relative to my speed. We went about 6 miles before I couldn't take it anymore. We got off, checked the wheel, removed and reinstalled the tire. No luck. This wheel has a definite flat spot. I am pretty good at maintenance, but I think I may take this one to the shop.

Lesson Learned: Never, Never, Never change something the night before the big ride...

We Survived
The wind was very favorable as we rode north out of SLC. That just meant coming back, with JS coughing and me cringing every revolution, we were headed into a pretty stiff wind. Luckily we had WI from work with us. He did some monster pulls at the front, and dragged us back to the fairgrounds. In the end we did about 72 miles in about 4:30 which isn't to shabby, but certainly not what we wanted.

Our next big organized ride is going to be the MS-150 in Logan at the end of June. Hopefully we will perform better there.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Company Cycling Events

I am part of a bicycle commuters club we have at work. We have about 35 members in a building with about 600 people in it. The last couple of years we have run a couple of cycling events during Bike 2 Work week. Below are a few of the different events we have put on.

Commute by Bike Clinic
One of the members of our group ran a lunchtime clinic on biking to work. He led a discussion of the typical stuff, clothes, showers, riding in traffic, etc. In addition to that, we had a representative from UTA there with handouts and info on bikes on busses and bikes on Trax.

It generated interest from a handful of people who weren't commuting by bike before. At least one of them has made the round trip by bike since the clinic.

Tune-up Clinic
For the third year in a row we have offered free tune-ups for anyone in the company. One of our members has worked as a mechanic for a shop, for a touring company, and teaches the repair and maintenance classes for the university. A couple of us that are "somewhat experienced" mechanics help out as much as we can. We did about 15 bikes in two hours this year.

Biking Buddy
We didn't do this one this year (mostly because I have been busy out of my head at work). What we have done in the past is designate a few meeting places around town, and offered to ride into work with anyone in the area. I figure in the past that this has helped us pick up about 3-4 bike commuters each year.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Quick Trip to Milwaukee

It's bike to work week in Salt Lake City, and Cycle Salt Lake week to boot. Instead of being there participating in all the festivities, I am in Milwaukee. Why? Good question.

As part of my job I maintain a national database of occupational wage information. This database is the primary source of information for Foreign Labor Certification (people trying to get employment-based green cards).

There is a Human Trafficking case going on in Milwaukee, and I have been subpoenaed by the US Attorney's Office to provide a prevailing wage history in the case. When you look at the details in the case (I know, presumed innocent...etc. etc.) you have a hard time believing that people could still treat another human being in this manner.


If all goes well, I should be back in SLC by very late Thursday night. I hope so. We have a bike tune-up clinic scheduled at work, and then the Cycle Salt Lake Century on Saturday. I would hate to miss either.

Ride Safe!

Monday, May 15, 2006

First Metric Century for 2006

Okay, so a metric isn't a big deal for most serious cyclists. But since my commute is usually 14-15 miles one way, and typically my long rides hit right around 30, it was kind of a big deal to me.

It all started with JuniorSprinter, LT and I went for our Blakemore Bikers training ride. The ride was scheduled for 50-60 miles, but because of construction on SR 201 and I-80 near the Great Salt Lake, we had to switch routes. We headed down south on SR 111 (AKA 8400 W or the Bachus Hwy) toward the New Bingham Hwy. This road is probably best described a "rolling". LT was on her mtn bike with slicks, JS and I on our roadies, but she did a great job of keeping up. One of the best early happenings in the ride was when JS was trying to chase down another bike and motored up this steep hill, completely missing the turn north on 5600 W. LT and I waited for him to come back down, laughing at the base of the climb.

LT bailed at about 30-35 miles, but JS and I continued north to the International Center, West to Saltair, and then back to home on SR 201. As we approached home I realized that we were going to hit 55-56 at home, so we passed on by, headed down the frontage road, detoured through a subdivision, and worked it up to 62.5 by the time we hit the driveway.

It was a great ride. This was the first time I have been on most of SR 111 since the mid 80's. There is a lot more traffic, but the road has been widened in a lot of places, so there were only a few uncomfortable spots. I was actually pleased with how good I felt going up the hills. I am still sitting at around 230, but I know there has been some fat to muscle transition because while I am still slow, I am climbing much better this year.

Well, the time spent composing this post was supposed to be spent on cleaning my office and the basement....Off to catch up.

Ride Safe!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Essential Tools - Or what's in my seat bag...

Before you ever get into doing tune-ups or repairs, you need to have the essential tools to get yourself home if something happens while you are riding. Most people will buy a little multi-tool, a couple of tire levers, spare tubes and a pump and call it good. The problem is, many mini-tools are missing a few key pieces that come in handy for even some minor mishaps, like broken spokes.

Here is what is in my bag, on my bike, or in my pockets every ride:
  • Spare tube, sprinkled with talc, in a sandwich bag
  • Patch kit (I've never had good luck with pre-glued patches)
  • Pump or CO2 inflater
  • Multi-tool that in addition to the standard screwdrivers and hexes includes a:
    • knife
    • chain tool
    • spoke wrench
  • Bare bones First Aid kit - Mini ziplock bag containing:
    • regular bandaids
    • finger tip and knuckle bandaids
    • a couple larger sterile pads
    • a foil packet of antibiotic ointment
    • a few pre-moistened wipes
  • A couple dollars cash and a couple of bus/train tokens
If I am leading a group ride where I know there will be more than one or two novices, I throw a rack trunk on with:
  • A couple extra tubes for both road and mtn tires
  • A schraeder to presta rim adapter (I picked up a bunch from - and all my tubes are presta)
  • A couple extra energy bars and/or gel packets
  • Sometimes an extra bottle
Know how to use what you carry

It's not enough to carry the stuff, you need to know how to use it to fix common mishaps. Take and old chain and practice with the chain tool, including figuring out how you are going to break the insertion end off of that Shimano link pin.

Practice changing and patching tubes if you haven't done that. Some tire and rim combinations make it very hard to get the tire on and off.

In short, try to be a self-sufficient as you can on your ride.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Do It Yourself

A friend of mine from work bought a bicycle work stand over the weekend, and told me about some of the maintenance tasks he had already tackled. Then he asked what he should learn to do next.

I thought about that for a while and basically came up with two answers:

1. Learn what ever it is that you have the shop do for you the most.
2. Start with the basic tune-up and work your way up to a complete overhaul.

Learn whatever it is you have the shop do for you the most

When I first started bike commuting a few years back, I was on a hard tail / rigid fork mountain bike that I had purchased almost a decade earlier. It wasn't in working condition so I took it in for an overhaul, which with parts cost me about $180 (could have bought a new bike - a new bike fixes everything). I am a pretty big guy, and I was loaded with panniers full of books and clothes going each way. I also cross rail road tracks 7-9 times on my commute. Between the weight, the load, the tracks and the potholes, I started breaking spokes within a few weeks.

Now, I have a good shop, and I still rely on them for parts and emergency fixes while I am at work. But at the time I was too scared I would mess something up, and afraid that I didn't have the right tools, so I has the shop replace the spoke and true the wheel. They are good guys, so they only charged me about $12, while I have seen truing jobs go for $30 plus. Everything was great for a few weeks, then I broke another spoke. Back to the shop, another $12. When I broke the 5th spoke (this took about a year) I decided I could really save myself some cash if I learned to do it myself. I'm far from being an expert wheelbuilder, but I figure between my bikes, and the other 5 bikes that live at my house so my family can ride, I save myself easily $200 truing wheels and fixing spokes.

You may have some other problem that you have to visit the shop for - maybe you ride in the rain a lot, so you have to do a lot of drivetrain maintenance. Or maybe you travel and rely on the shop to pack and ship your bike. Maybe you wear out brake pads quickly and need to learn how to replace them so they don't squeal. Whatever it is, you can start by learning that first and save yourself a chunk of change.

Start with the basic tune-up and work your way up to a complete overhaul

Your bike deserves a basic tune-up every 3-4000 miles, or at least once a year. The typical basic tune-up costs between $40-$60 and includes services like:
  • Check bike for loose bolts, rattles, etc.
  • Clean and lube the drivetrain.
  • Lube and adjust brake and shifter cables if needed.
  • Adjust hubs, bottom bracket and headset.
  • True wheels laterally.
  • Clean and test ride.
A few of those tasks may seem hard, but if you have the skill to change a flat, you have enough mechanical ability to learn to do all the tasks in a basic tune-up.

About once a year I like to give my bikes a complete overhaul. At my LBS an overhaul usually costs between $100-$150. It typically includes all the services of a tune-up plus such things as:
  • Remove an clean all major parts and cables.
  • Replace cables and/or housings if needed.
  • Clean, replace bearings, repack and adjust hubs, headset, bottom bracket and pedals.
  • True wheels, including dish, tension and round.
  • Some shops remove, clean, grease and replace all bolts, even the minor stuff like bottle cage bolts.
When I do an overhaul on my own bikes I usually add new cables, housing and chain. I also like to replace the bar tape. It make them look and feel like new bikes.

For both a tune-up and an overhaul, the job is faster and easier if you have the right tools, but tool lists will have to wait for another post.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Group Riding Skills

One of my favorite sites, Bike Forums, has a great post on rules and etiquette for group riding.

Click here to read the full discussion.

The full list is pretty long, but I want to highlight a couple of the "rules":
  • Do NOT cross/overlap wheels with the guy in front of you.
  • Carry enough gear so that you don't have to ask for help when you have problems. (A future post will cover what I carry on a normal commute, and on a long training ride.)
  • Wear a helmet - this one isn't in the Bike Forums list, but I lead rides for youth groups, scouts, and a lot of novices. In some cases the rules of the sponsoring group requires that all participants wear a helmet. It's easier on the ride leader if everyone wears one.
  • If you get a flat in the middle of a pack, call out "Flat!". Raise your hand, if it is safe to do so, so other riders can spot you and not run over you.
  • Always assume that there is a rider behind you, and on your left, and on your right, until you can prove otherwise.
  • Have fun and encourage the new riders.
That last rule is the most important. I remember my first real group ride. I was (still am) pretty out of shape. The ride leader told me I was doing great, even though I was obviously struggling to hang on, and drifted back to check on me several times. All the riders in the group were great.

Those were just a few of the "rules" - so if you get a chance, jump on over and read the full thread.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Close Call

Luckily I wasn't directly involved...

Yesterday on my commute home I was stopped at a rural stoplight facing west waiting to turn to the left. Two teenagers on BMX bikes were riding to the south when the light changed. While the southbound cars stopped, these kids both ran the light, passing right in front of an accelerating FORD F-250. I entirely expected one of them to get hit, but by some good fortune the driver of the truck had seen them coming and slowed down.

As I caught them, I told them how lucky they really were, and gave them the "Same Roads, Same Rules, Same Rights" lecture. I'm sure it went in one ear and out the other.

Ride like a car folks - Ride safe.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

4/15 Group Ride - International Center

Well - my son and I were the only two who went on this ride, but I can't say that I blame anyone for not showing. The weather report was sketchy at best, but other than the roads being a little wet the ride was fine.

We hope that some of the other Blakemore team riders come out to join us. The routes are relatively flat (unless the group wants to ride the few big hills I know about). The roads generally have wide sholders and are low traffic, with a few exceptions.

If you are new to the MS-150 or to road biking, I highly recommend that you participate in some of the group rides. Riding in a group takes a little getting used too, and the group in Logan will be huge...