Thursday, May 31, 2012

Better Than Flowers

I got home to a present from my better (at being thoughtful) half yesterday. Flowers? A puppy? A romantic, candle lit dinner? Nope. Even better- an anti-fatigue mat for my work bench!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Should you work on your own bike? That is a very good question. It's one that I get asked often. I also see talk about it on various blogs/comment sections. People have very strong opinions (as they often do when they don't have to attach their real name). Here's my humble opinion on home wrenching. If you're doing it for fun, or for a learning experience- yes, work on your own bike. If you're doing it to save money- no, don't do it.

Bikes appear to be simple machines. You can see almost every moving part on them, so they don't seem as mysterious as a car or refrigerator.  But there is enough going on with bicycles, enough to know about them, that people (such as myself) make bicycles their careers. It takes a long time, and a lot of (expensive) mistakes to get good at bike service. You don't know that the Deore hubbed wheel you bought on Amazon won't fit on your track bike until you do it. You're going to spend $15 on a chain whip you don't need, because you have a freewheel. Your going to have to buy extra front derailleur cables, because you'll fray them from too many adjustments. And that's all ok because that's how you learn. But it's not cheap.

There are lots of things you could do to save money. You could make your own clothes- fabric is cheap- but you probably don't. Unless you enjoy doing it. You could bake your own bread- flour is cheap, yeast is free- but you probably don't do that either. Unless you enjoy baking (and yeast hunting). If you're not having fun, you're wasting time and money on a pain in the ass activity.

Back to the folks who like to tinker- there are tons of resources for home mechanics. I'm sure you already know about the internet- which is great and has some good nuggets of information. It also has giant boulders of bad/mis information. So where does one go for easy to find good, reliable information? (Here comes a not-so-subtle plug) Your friendly, local bicycle shop. That one guy on that one forum can't tell you what's compatible with your bike, but I can, because you can bring it into the shop where I can see it and we can talk about it. Mechanics (I guess I can't speak for all mechanics...), many mechanics I know really do like talking about bikes, and the technical aspects of them. Our friends and loved ones are tired of hearing us talk about chain wrap capacity, so if you want to know about it please ask! If your mechanic is too cranky to answer your questions- find another one. We're not all cranky, I promise.

Really I just wanted to say, if you don't want to work on your own bike, don't feel any pressure to do it. You aren't a bad bike owner, you're just good at not doing things you don't find fun. If you do find it fun, and you want to tinker- do it! And use your LBS as a resource.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bike Month

I know I'm a little late with it, but...Happy Bike Month! It's that most wonderful time of the year when bicycles and the people who ride them get a tiny sliver of attention. To those who say "I bike every month, so May is nothing special.", I say "Bah humbug, you smug Debbie Downer". This is a time to encourage our fair weather cycling (or non-cycling) friends to get on their bikes. The more people on bikes on the streets the better things are for everybody. Plus, there's free breakfast. Free breakfast.

There are tons of events about bikes, and biking to work, for fitness and general transpo. Check out Bay State Bike Week for a state wide list of events. Sign up for the Mass Commute Challenge to register your bike week miles (ps. the Bike Bash is really fun). The bikeyface Bikenic will give you a chance to talk with folks of all cycling abilities, and it's a picnic! Check out the Rush Hour Race, on Monday (my money's on Bike Safe Boston, obviously).

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bicycle Racing

I'm not a generally competitive person. I just don't have that drive to win at any cost, that is required (or at least is super helpful) to be good at sports. I enjoy a good pick-up game of soccer, ultimate Frisbee (yeah, I said it), whatever... but beyond that I've found that teams like to have people on them who actively try to win the game, so I steer clear of team sports. Individual sports aren't really any different. People like it when you try to win. Despite my lack of competitive drive, I raced the Massasoit Lung Opener this weekend

It was actually my second MTB race of the season. I also raced the King of Burlingame TT last month. I'll admit that before that race I called my better half while sitting in the parking lot to say something along the lines of "I'm nervous. This isn't fun. Why did I sign up for this? Wah." Don't worry- I got a nice helping of tough love. "Stop being a whiny baby and ride your bike." After being a big baby, I did get on my bike and race. And I enjoyed myself overall. How did I do? I don't know, because my results got lost. I know I didn't win, and I also didn't come in last. Beyond that, I don't know that I care to know how I did.

So if I'm not trying to win, I don't really care about my results and it's not 100% fun 100% of the time- why race at all? Good question.

Two reasons, mostly. One- it's a great learning experience. This weekend I learned that I'm much more motivated by staying ahead of the people behind me than trying to keep up with/pass the folks in front of me. I learned that warming up is a very important thing to do. I learned that Novice Women mountain bikers don't like the descents and that's a good place for me to make up for my lack of fitness and competitive drive. Two- it feels really good to finish. There's nothing like pushing yourself to ride hard to help you really enjoy not pushing yourself. Sitting down is much more satisfying after you've been racing than, say, if you've already been sitting down all day.

In conclusion, bike racing is good for learning things and appreciating not bike racing.