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.