I might have to re-use this title in the Fermenter section one day, but for now it's apropos to cycling.
For the first time ever, I am the proud owner of a bike with a bike rack!
When last we met my commuter bike, it was hot off the local bike shop's stand, having been cobbled together from mostly used parts in a beautiful black. There's a look at the original design below.
Yesterday, I received a much-anticipated upgrade: a rear-mounted rack and a set of panniers. My thoughts of doing something of distance are increasing daily.
Kids have it rough. And as far as bikes go -- at least in this country -- kids have it even rougher.
My wife and I decided yesterday to take the kids to the local farmer's market before popping in at the library. It was a great plan, but it required some awkward logistical management, since we've been leaving our bike trailer at daycare so it can get regular use.
After walking our youngest over there to fetch it, I cleaned off the chain to very quickly resolve a minor shifting problem, then headed back home to pack up. We rolled up, got everyone ready, and headed down the driveway, where we were immediately greeted by a pack of cars. On a small residential street. On Saturday, mid-morning. Over the next 15 minutes, the fun just never let up.
While I appreciate keeping our daughter on the sidewalk when she's riding up and down our street, when we're using our bikes as utilitarian objects, trying to get somewhere, we need to be in the road.
Sadly, in the US, that seems to be an affront to most people. A kid? On a street? On a bike? She's slowing me down! That was the general sense on what should have been our minimally-trafficked course, and it left me on edge.
We weren't exactly taking harrowing streets, either. For the most part, the roads we travel on are somewhat windy, relatively narrow, generally with parking on one or both sides, and realistically not useful for much beyond local travel. But somehow, we repeatedly found ourselves with a vehicle pressed against our rearmost rider, or staring down a car desperate to get through that narrow slot one of us had created by simply existing on the road.
More than once I was worried that an oncoming car wasn't watching my oldest daugher as she drifted a little in our lane, or that a car behind us would simply blow by without any regard for who might be in our group.
Then there were the intersections, where we often stopped as a group to let cars go. On at least two of these stops, a driver waved their arms to indicate which way they were going. Right, you can do that with your turn signal. That's what it's for. Or you can wave your arms like a doofus and communicate even less.
The entire experience was quite eye-opening, actually.
I'm not going to delve into the whole "European cycling is awesome!" bit, but I will say this about American biking: when a family out on a simple 2-mile cruise through town has to deal with sketchy situations and irate drivers, perhaps we need to rethink the way that families of four can ride around.
This isn't some epic trek, it's a quick jaunt to pick up some books and food. We're not trying to take over the highways, we're angling for a low-key, quiet way through a medium-density suburban area. Please let us do that without dying.
Be safe out there.
Mash out. Spin on.
It's raining! It's pouring! My daughter kicked me out of bed at 3:30 this morning, which gave my wife respite from my snoring.
I generally don't mind the rain. Growing up in the Northwest, it rained consistently enough that "riding in the rain" meant riding anytime between October and April. It involved putting on a rain slicker (this was before the days of ubiquitous fancy gear) and heading out, only to take off the slicker 20 minutes in because the aforementioned rain had turned to a light mist or dissipated entirely, only to have said rain restart just in time to deliver a good drenching before the previously removed rain slicker could be recommissioned.
It was rare, though, to have significant rainfall amounts. Daily totals were on the 1/4-1/2" scale. Moving East of the Rockies basically crushed that: rather than brief swaps between periods with and without drizzly rain, on this side of the Divide the rain builds up, letting you have days or weeks of sun (and, subsequently, built-up heat), only to be shattered by a diluvial event.
We saw earlier this year what that kind of persistent rain can do to hillside stability in the Northwest. On the Eastern seaboard, these isolated events are instead hurricanes that take on multi-state importance. And in the Midwest, "flooding" refers not to oceans rising and rivers building up at their mouths, but to vast swaths whose apparent siccity is belied by the insane water depths that sweep across them once every 100 (or maybe 10) years.
It was with only mild sadness, then, that I failed to ride outside this morning, thanks to a classically large Eastern rain cell depositing several inches over a half dozen hours. (A more pedestrian drizzle now falls, and I expect we'll be back to the sun side of the sun/rain detent tomorrow.)
But what disappointed me most was the much-anticipated ride to drop my daughter off for the first time at kindergarten. She's ridden the bus 15 or so times already this year, and last weekend she asked if I could ride her over today. Unfortunately, due to the school's "allowed drop-off time" being so late, that can only happen on Thursday; even more unfortunately, this morning was clearly not going to work out for that.
I will be seeking new opportunities to initiate her into biking to school, though, in hopes that in the not-too-distant future she'll be able to make the trek more regularly and/or on her own. Maybe we can even convince her local friends to join her.
I've thought a lot about the post from a few days ago bemoaning the trainer on beautiful riding days.
This morning, temps dropped to the 60F range, my daughter kicked me out of my bed at 5 a.m., and I thought long and hard about riding the trainer again. The benefit, of course, is that it would mean I would get to work quickly and could take the rest of my morning more casually. The obvious downside would be ridiculous inefficiency.
I could not -- could not -- stop thinking about Futurama S2Ep12, with Hermes complaining about bringing back mining carts empty in a forced labor camp: "It's criminally inefficient!" Because on a day like this, that's what avoiding the bike is.
Instead of giving in to the easy draw of the car, I pulled up the bike and got dressed to ride. My legs are a bit like jelly, and the ride home isn't going to be pretty, but at least my mind is no longer repeating this song ad nauseum. (Apologies for the quality.)
As a result of this ride, I finally had a chance to log a work trip, with the final number 41.6 km, starting a bit away from my door. That's a solid riding day to take on twice with work in between, though I know that as a youth I could have done the whole round-trip at full speed in about 2/3 the time I currently manage.
There is, alas, no accounting for the inefficiency of age. But at least it's not, you know, criminally so.
Mash out. Spin on.
We're finally out of the summer heat! It's time once again to really enjoy riding outside, that glorious period where mornings are cool enough to wear arm warmers but don't require booties, where it's possible to just jump on the bike and ride without thinking about your digits freezing or basic overheating after 2 hours.
Sadly, the school year has also started, and that means far less flexibility in my schedule. I reveled in the morning air for about 30 seconds before everyone got up, camping out on the back porch in 55F chill at 5:45 a.m., well before sunrise. Then I went downstairs and rode for an hour on the trainer.
This doesn't feel like what fall should be. Back in the grad school days, this season was where I got to ditch work in the middle of the day and take a few hours to just enjoy the good weather. Sure, that meant working more in the mornings and evenings, but it didn't make any difference when that was done: I'm not a clocked employee who needs to be around 9-5 every day.
Sadly, with an office that's far enough away to make me miss meetings if I leave after 7:45, it's hard to justify waiting with my kids for the school bus and then riding. But it's also hard to disappear for an hour or two before the drop-off for an outdoor ride thanks to darkness -- which, sadly, is not accompanied by less traffic.
That leaves the trainer, which I can realistically tolerate for no more than an hour on most days and have never succeeded in spending more than 2 hours on in a go.
Kick me outside, and a 2-hour ride feels decent, a 1-hour ride feels like I've barely started. On a trainer, 45 minutes leaves me mildly bored and staring at the clock; at 2 hours I'm pretty much leaping off the bike to end the ride. The sacrifices need to be made, though: getting out of cycling shape is pretty easy, and the trainer offers the only viable alternative in the wee hours where I can ride and, if needed, watch the kids. (The bike trailer may seem like an option, but by the time the kids are up and ready to get in it, any traffic-filled rides that might be done with children in tow are perilous at best.)
The biggest issues I have with the trainer are:
1. Excessive heat -- Houses are warm, which means it's always a 70F ride. Remove any airflow and the ride is never particularly comfortable.
2. Boredom -- There's not much to look at in a house. You can only think about cleaning the cobwebs from the corner so many times; you can only consider all the ways that a small piece of a toy ended up under the couch for so long; you can only watch so many Netflix offerings in a go (also, auto-play kicks out after 2 episodes, which confines rides to "hour-long" shows and movies).
3. Lack of ride variety -- And there are no hills! And no obstacles! It's just straight riding. I briefly propped up the front of my bike to work some different muscles, but it takes effort to put something like that in place. Maybe I'll get an electronically-activated hydraulic jack to make the experience more interesting.
Regardless, it looks like the trainer is going to dominate rides for the next couple weeks until our schedule has stabilized. That doesn't sound too appealing, but it's better than losing what little cycling shape I might have these days.
It's official: I have a touring bike! Well, mostly.
The local bike shop does builds with used components, and I had a bunch of parts lying around. They put a cyclocross frame together with a steel fork, strapped on some new cranks and a new cassette, bolted my parts to it, and gave it back. All that leaves for me to get are a couple fenders, a pannier rack, and some panniers. With all that, I'll be kitted out for routing, or just commuting more comfortably.
The whole package was well worth the $500, since it comes with much higher-end components than I would have otherwise gotten. The only downsides: the shifters are a tad abused -- one of them came from me -- and the fork is actually very very very very very dark green.
Indeed, as seen in the above setup, my first real ride on it was on a trainer. The weather promptly turned rainy, and I wanted to give the whole thing a test without having to clean the bike after 12 hours in my house.
The world clearly needs more blogs.
Considering the sites that promote specific dog breeds, crazy medical ideas, and alien encounters, one about beer and bicycling is maybe not unique and perhaps unnecessary. But here it is, in what I hope will be a unique reading and commenting experience that brings in cyclists of various stripes, beer lovers of all shades, and even homebrewing cyclists of many shapes and sizes. I know they exist. I even know some. And they cannot be denied, as these very people will now be populating a site with their Superfund-worthy thoughts.
You'll find three sets of content here, each updated whenever we get around to them:
1. Bike Rack -- Everything bicycles. Advocacy, transportation policy, road thoughts, uses, considerations in those uses, people (sane or not) riding them, people writing about cycling, and anything that comes to mind about putting self-propelled vehicles on the roads (whether technically "bicycles" or not).
2. Fermenter -- Brewing and beer. How and what we brew, what we're drinking, what other people are brewing and drinking, beer trends, interesting beer news, people writing about and discussing beer, and whatever else seems appropriate -- or inappropriate.
3. Across the Moat -- Everything else. These will range depending on what's caught our fancy at the moment. Good luck with that.
Mash out. Spin on.