Thursday, November 29, 2012

Rattle, rattle, rattle

One of my favorite and least favorite bike accessories are fenders.  I think they make a bike look damn stylish, and when the water falls from the sky, you stay clean and dry.  The fenders are sort of integral to the look of my bike and I'd be absolutely loathe to remove them, but there's two things that annoy me no end.

One - since it never rains here, I sometimes feel like I'm carrying these things around for looks.  While aesthetics are important, the Surly ain't exactly a featherweight to begin with, and I have aluminum Velo Orange fenders, which are absolutely iconic in terms of their looks.  However, installing them was an absolute bitch (it involved a hacksaw, among other tools), so removing them usually feels pretty non-optional for situations where they aren't necessary (i.e. the Wurst Ride, all of August).  They do also create a bit of sideways wind resistance, which can be problematic in high-speed Texas winds.

The second problem is a bit more personal.  My front fender rattles to no end.  There's a bolt on my front fender which is the attachment point for the stay and the fender itself, and the place the fender slides through this bolt is a bit bigger in diameter than the stay itself.  So every single ride, I get to listen to this the entire time:

Tell me that doesn't make you kind of want to choke a bitch.  Now spend 4 hours tuning it out.

I spoke with Velo Orange this morning about this issue, and most of what they told me doesn't resolve the issue because as far as I can tell this isn't an installation issue, this is something caused by the hardware itself. I love how my fenders look, but this is driving me batty and I need either a solution, or a new set of fenders.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Early Morning Grind

I have a problem.  My job currently requires I be there and ready to rock by 6 a.m.  This means in order to ride a bike to work, I have to be out the door around 5:05 or so, and awake even earlier.  And there's my problem.  I have a lot of trouble motivating myself out of bed (at the LATEST) around 4:45 in the morning when there's an additional 30 minutes of sleep possible if I drive.

Once I'm out of bed it's less of an issue, but seriously - I CANNOT seem to get my ass out of bed to ride to work more than twice a month.  Once I'm up I'm a real morning person, too!  The tragedy of it all is that when I get out of work, it's usually a sunny, beautiful afternoon, the perfect time to get a bit of exercise and enjoy the city.  But I have my car and not my bike because when the room was dark and my bed was warm, I slapped the snooze and rolled over.

Is there anyone else with an insanely early-morning commute with any advice for me?

Friday, November 16, 2012


The Bike Farm

I recently sold The Schwinn Le Tour which had been occupying space in my garage.  The fellow I sold it to worked at the Bike Farm, a "Shop" in central Austin and I agreed to meet him there for the exchange.  In the process, I discovered less of a bike shop and more of a treasure trove.  

The Bike Farm is a simple place to describe - a gravel lot out back of a hollowed out house that serves as a shop.  There's a few tents and the place is absolutely covered in bikes.  They are unique, however, in that this is ENTIRELY a used bike shop.  The bikes range from cheap mountain bikes, but far more common are vintage rides, new-old stock, half torn apart bikes, frames hanging from the fence.  

For a vintage bike enthusiast like myself this place was like candyland.  The sheer prevalence of upright bikes and lugged steel roadbikes overwhelmed me and I found myself walking in circles trying to take everything in.


A vintage Hercules hidden in the vines.

Stepthroughs EVERYWHERE,

If you dig lugged bikes, used bikes, old bikes that never made it out of a warehouse, go walk around through this magical wonderland.  Their address is:

6516 Shirley Ave
Austin, TX 78752

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Wurst Ride 2012 - Victory is Mine!

As mentioned, I ride this year's Wurst Ride, in the hopes that this year would go better than last year's attempt (i.e. bonked out halfway through).  I hadn't remotely trained,but this year they offered a 24 and a 45 mile option, and the end was the same place as the beginning - in my humble opinion a great improvement over last year's point-to-point.  And I finished! And in great style, too.  Here it is:

At 6:00 a.m. my day started with the drive to New Braunfels.  As our caravan rolled down I-35, the mist that was clearing looked like smoke and I wondered if there was a fire or something that could ruin the air quality and thwart my Wurst Ride completion dreams.  But as the sun rose, the mist burned off and the sun rose on the field where we parked (if there's anything more Texan than parking in a field at a county fairground, you tell me).

There were rows and rows of cars, most of which had more than one bike - hundreds of bike dorks, all here to bike-dork together.

I picked up my packet, pinned on my number, and cruised around taking pictures, meeting people - politicking, one could say.  They lined up the ride to the tune of "Call Me Maybe," "Gangnam Style," and countless warnings to be careful crossing train tracks lest we kill ourselves and die.  And they're off!

Given I wasn't on a skinny-tire bike, I chose to roll out with the slower speeds and take the time to smell the roses.  It was an absolutely gorgeous day - sunny, passing through some of the most iconic places in Texas - Gruene not least among them.

This here is central Texas in a nutshell

It may not be mountains or oceans, but it's home.

As I warmed up, I felt a sensation I hadn't felt in a long time - the "thrum thrum" of my legs carrying me down the road, my bike floating effortlessly cruising.  It didn't hurt we had one hell of a tailwind and the first half of the ride was largely downhill.  I rode almost the entire ride with the same group of folks - I had a bit of pride that my bike was easily twice as heavy, but I had no trouble keeping up.  

We fairly soared through the first 12 miles and pulled up to the rest stop for pickle juice, cookies, peanut butter-jelly sandwiches, and fresh water.  A dear buddy of mine, Al, is one of the coordinators for Bicycle Sport Shop and always found haunting around the rest stops at their sponsored rides.  

Hello ladies!

I tend to be pretty quick with my stops - in and out, eat my snacks and no letting my legs cool off.  The rest stop also represented the halfway point and turnaround for the 24 mile ride (the 45 mile version continued on to the next rest stop, then turned around).  I drank my pickle juice, ate my PBJ, and hit the road.

The second half of the ride was not nearly the cupcake that the first half had been.  Two facts caught up with us - the first half had been all downhill with tailwind.  Ergo, the second half was all uphill with headwind.  We battled, and I mentally made new lyrics for the Song that Never Ends from Lamb Chops Play-Along.  Here they are:

This is the hill that never ends.
Yes it goes on and on my friend.
Some people started climbing it not knowing what it was.
And they'll continue singing it forever just because.
This is the hill that never ends.

Finally, after sitting and spinning, gearing down and gearing up, standing and cranking it out, we made it!  Back to where we started, to congratulations from the guy with the microphone and the cheers of the literally tens of people there to see us in.  Victory was mine!

This is what victory tastes like.

I ate my sausages, drank my beers, and enjoyed the bluegrass until Emily and Justin made it back (they did the 45 mile version of the ride).  We rested up, and made our way to Wurstfest (tack 2 miles there and 2 miles back to our daily totals).  

So, the Wurst Ride.  Did I learn anything?  Nah.  But I went for a really, really nice bike ride.

Friday, November 9, 2012

We meet again, Wurst Ride

Yep, that's my registration!  It's time for the annual running of "Annie hasn't done a single training ride for this, but who cares."  I'm only doing the 22 mile route, though - last year I made it 36 miles into a headwind before I gave up.  This year's ride starts and ends at the fairground, which will hopefully avoid last year's fiasco.  Also, I'm actually registered this time and won't have to lie my way onto a SAG wagon.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The bicycle and the apocalypse

A few years back, I lived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  While I was there, I personally stood witness to two breathtakingly powerful acts of nature - Hurricane Ivan, and later, Hurricane Katrina.  They bring home the power of nature and how much your life depends on the infrastructure around you.  Power.  Roads.  Traffic Reports.  Police.  We depend on them all, and you never notice them until they're gone.

With those memories, I have obsessively followed the situation on the east coast during and after "Frankenstorm" Sandy - the catastrophic power of this storm has crippled New York, New Jersey, and the surrounding areas.  With that comes the usual side-effects of hurricanes, but the population of the area amplifies these effects a thousand times.  The effects of no power, no gasoline, amplified effects of basic temperature fluctuations, and destroyed infrastructure.  Add to the destruction of vehicles, debris everywhere, and the basic cleanup that has to happen to make the word navigable and you have all the ingredients for a traffic nightmare.

The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, declared a transportation emergency Wednesday night.  Between gridlock, a lack of available fuel, and damaged public transportation infrastructure, to quote the New York Times, "Only bicycles seemed to be rolling."  The bicycle is a beacon of freedom in the gnarled mess of commuting without a car or a train to get you from A to B.  It's independent of gasoline, and if it spends a day underwater you can pull it out, hose it off, dry it, lube it, and get where you're going.

In the aftermath of the storm, reports of life are largely coming by bicycle - the only viable way to get around.  The Wall Street Journal goes into the black zone.  Business Insider photographs Manhattan in the heart of darkness.  It seems like the one thing no one focuses on when the cars stop working is how well the bikes really do.

In the end, no one will be riding the Mad Max Interceptor or the pickup truck from the Walking Dead because when the gas stops, so do they.  All you need to ride a bike is yourself.