Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Spring Preview

High 50s and into the 60s tomorrow. As a native New Englander, I know this is not the start of spring. Just a little preview to keep everyone from totally losing it. It will most likely snow again, at least once more, before winter is really over, but I'll take it.

This little warm up is melting the giant snowbanks, which is three parts awesome and two parts a drag. The awesome is that as the snow banks melt, cars have have their parking spaces back, and we cyclists can have our bike lanes back. One of the drags is this:

Gross. As the snow disappears, we're left with dirty piles of trash. Although I did just find that red straw I lost in December.

The other drag is that the snow turns into water, flows into the reappearing bike lanes, and makes fenders pretty necessary even on a beautiful day like this. I have my humble opinions on bicycle aesthetics. Fenders are one of those things that I think bikes look better without. But I'm willing to give up looks, if it involves keeping the water that melted out of that snow pile off of my back.

I meant to write up a little review of Portland Design Works' Origami Fender before the winter hit. Just like all other quick mount style rear fenders, it's lightweight and easy to install. The feature that sets it apart from those other guys (and what I most appreciate) is that it's easily stashed in a back pack (or messenger bag, if that's what you're into). The 'mud flap' part of the fender is made of thin flexible plastic (think this), that snaps onto the seat post mount. Unsnap them, and they'll easily fit without sticking out. See?:

Bag w/ regular fender

Bag w/ origami fender™

Function when you want to keep trashy snow water from soaking you. Easy stowing when the weather turns nice.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Surly Troll

I mentioned last post that I had a new bike. I got this bike because I needed fewer bikes. Don't worry, it makes sense. My collection was getting out of hand. There are good reasons to have more than one bike, but at some point it gets to be too much. One reason is because I like a good project. I'd gotten to the point where I was finishing a project bike, and then picking up another one, to put the extra parts from the first project to good use. Or I'd want to try something new, like a 2-speed kickback hub, or a disc braked fixed gear, you know, product testing. So I can provide sound, tested opinions and suggestions. I suppose I could have gotten a Surly Cross Check. It's a frame I really like, and would allow for lots of parts swapping, but no disc brakes. And I already have a 'cross bike.

Enter the Surly Troll. 26" wheel bike, with means to attach anything you want (within reason)- disc brakes, full line guides, post mount brakes, derailleurs, racks (front and rear), fenders, specially threaded holes to attach their new trailer, and horizontal dropouts for single speeding.

Here's how I have mine built up (for now):

Riding in a winter wonderla... ugh. It's gross.

Single speed. Right now it's fixed. Front hydraulic brake. My favorite seat/saddle and handlebars. And giant tires. 26 x 2.4! I know they're excessive, and my choice is almost purely aesthetic. I just prefer the way they fill up the frame, especially on a mountain bike. If I was a car person, I would probably be this A-hole guy:

So far I've enjoyed the ride. The heavy, heavy wheels/tires do take a little energy to wind up, but if I keep them up to max air pressure it's not so bad. Plus, I don't fear the potholes quite as much on the 2.4s. Which is important for my daily commute these days- have you seen S'ville Beacon Street? Pinch flat city.

I'm looking forward to taking it off road a little. And probably for a little light touring. And give it a geared drive train sometime. Or 3 speed. And maybe try it with some skinny tires. Or whatever other project I can come up with.

Friday, February 11, 2011


I haven't been riding outside much. I think the last time I rode any significant amount outside was around Christmas. This is because of two things, mostly. 1) I was bike-less for a while. Working bike-less, at least. Actually I had one working bike, but it's my nice one. I'm not going to ride it out in the land of salt and potholes. 2) The weather has been miserable. I don't mind cold, but the snow (and snow and snow and snow) sucks the fun out of life (I'm not a skier). So I've been walking. That's exercise. Kind of.

I'm not a high performing cyclist. I'm not super fit. What little fitness I do have, I'd like to hang onto during this off season. Maybe I'll want to put a little more effort into 'racing' this year. Or maybe I just want to be able to enjoy riding when the weather gets nice. So I put my one working bike on the trainer, parked in front of a computer stocked with guilty-pleasure TV and bike training videos. I even have a heart rate monitor, so I can make sure my heart's working hard enough.

Fast forward to this week. No snow and a (mostly) new bike* to try out. I did some commuting and errand running. I got my ass handed to me- riding around town. Depressing. I can say that despite how much time I've spent riding inside, it's not really helping. It's not hurting. But I'm not going to get race ready by riding in place. I can try to push myself while watching "Trainright Climbing", but riding up a real hill is more difficult than I could ever motivate myself to spin on the trainer. I'm out of shape.

Thankfully the way to get not out of shape is ride a bike outside. The 10 day forecast only has a couple days of flurries, and lots of days in the upper 30s. I'll take it.

*I'm going to write about it after I ride it a bit longer, so I can give a well thought out review about it.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I was thinking.

The streets of Boston are not known for being a friendly place. I have a theory (and one optimistic thought) about it that's been rolling around in my noggin for the last couple of days.

People freak out when there is a lack, real or perceived, of resources. The run on the banks during the Great Depression. The deadly rush of shoppers trying to get their hand on a Wii, or Tickle Me Elmo, or whatever. People buying up all the bottled water (as far away as Portland, ME... really) during last summer's 'aquapocalypse'. That 'survival of the fittest' instinct kicks in (even though you don't need a Wii to survive...), and it causes bad, panicky behavior in folks.

It's crowded here. More people in one area = less space per each individual person. More people trying to transport in an area = less transportation space per each individual. Can bad transportation behavior- from drivers, cyclists, and peds- can be blamed on the perceived lack of road space? I think so, at least partially. Drivers get mad at biker for 'being in the way', when it's clearly not cyclists that are causing gridlock. Cars dangerously speed by, to what? Get stuck at the next stop light. Behind another car. Bikers and car drivers get mad at buses/bus drivers for driving like jerks and being in the way, but every person on a bus is not driving a car on the road. I'd like to make it clear that there is plenty of road out there. In this case it's a perceived lack of resource. I really do believe if people chilled out, we'd all see how much space there is for all of us to share.

What about now? The snow has created less space for people to transport in. Many roads and sidewalks have been reduced to one travel lane. Are people acting any more panicked about transporting now that there actually is less road to travel on? I don't know. I think it's hard to tell. It seems like people have a little more patience these days, since travel is kind of miserable for everyone.

So then, what will happen in the spring, when more road appears? Well, here's my optimistic thought, it's probably a stretch, but I hope that everyone will realize how much road there is out there. "Oh man, it's so spacious out here. I don't know what I was thinking before- there's plenty of room for bike lanes!" Maybe this can be the silver lining of this winter- it's been such a transportation hassle, that it'll make spring seems just that much better.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

One Year

The doors have been open for a year. Days passed, money in and out, hours clocked- there are plenty of business stats to measure time passed. Those numbers are great (and necessary), but they don't give the full picture of Hub's first year. I've been thinking recently of the other ways to measure what's happened in the last year.

Some other numbers- flats fixed (393), wheel building lessons taught (3), cars that hit me while riding to the shop (1), bikes basics tuned (146), CX races raced (6), DFL finishes (1), tubes recycled (2 70lb boxes), days I've been happy to come to work (365).

The visual indications* of time passed:

I'm so very grateful to have been here for a year. Thanks to everyone for the support, flat fixes, and tune ups. Here's to a great year two.

*That means mostly how dirty things have gotten...