Friday, October 25, 2013

North Austin Social Bicycling!

Austin is a pretty unique city in many ways. People like to compare it to a lot of other places (Portland springs to mind), but we definitely have our own vibe down here. One of the things I love most about this city is how easy it is to find like-minded people to do stuff with, ergo - Social Cycling (or social kickball, or ultimate frisbee, or underwater basket weaving. Whatever floats your boat, really). But that said, Social Cycling Austin's rides are usually focused around the downtown area, east side, and south side of town. Meanwhile, I live up in the north. There ain't much going on up here, not because there's not stuff to do, but because people from south of the river like to refer to north Austin as "South Dallas," among other equally unwelcome and snarky remarks.

Enter North Austin Social Bicycling, the most welcoming bunch of people I've had the pleasure of riding bikes with in a hot minute! Their rides meet within a few miles of my house, which is an intensely pleasurable sensation. As I've been in recovery recently, I'm really not as fast as I once was and it's nice to know that IF I have to bail, I'm not 25 miles across a shitload of hills from my house.

The NASB has a Tuesday Night Ride that meets at Balcones Park at 12017 Amherst Drive, 78727 around 7 o'clock. It is no-drop, and they really, genuinely mean it. The ride we did was a total of about 12 miles, and the whole ride periodically stops so that everyone can catch up.

Because these are smaller rides than the biggies done by Social Cycling Austin, there's a bit more of a local feel, but all are genuinely welcome. There's a lot of cross-pollination among social cyclists in Austin and even though my first time riding with them was a couple weeks ago, there were familiar faces.

Ready to roll out.
The rides themselves follow a familiar formula - meet at a park, hang out, bike to a park, hang out, then head to a local watering hole for some beers and camaraderie. It's a good time, everyone's nice, and the rides are fun. If you live in the north Austin area and like to bike, there's no reason NOT to come chill with the Hammerheads.

Gettin' some dranks at the Hideout

All photographs provided by the awesome folks of the NASB. If you want to come out and ride some bikes, more information can be found at their Facebook group, here.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Caught out!

Spring and Fall are my favorite seasons by a longshot, but they're fraught with error every single year. They're basically opposite syndromes - in Spring, I wear clothing that is a hair too warm for the temperature, and in Fall I have real difficulty letting go of wearing shorts and sandals everywhere. At some point am invariably caught out in the weather with clothing that is just all wrong. That was me, Monday.

There's a saying here in Texas that there are a lot of places in the world where it can be tough to go outside because of the climate. But we don't have "climate" in Texas, we have WEATHER. The state of things can change incredibly fast, and no more so than during the transitional seasons. Monday, I rode into work and it was just lovely out. All day, I watched clouds roll in and out and with a 30% chance of rain, felt my paranoia rising. I went and put a plastic bag on my bike seat. On my last break I went outside to take the photos of my lock for my last post, and seeing that it was a bright and sunny day, said to myself, "Oh, you're just being paranoid again!" and removed the bag. 

The Surly, enjoying the new bike rack at work, immediately before the monsoon.

About 30 minutes later it started to monsoon. I had a wet leather saddle, no rain jacket, and it was rush hour. I called for a ride. Which made me feel like a huge sissy until from the perspective of my friend's dry car, saw what I'd have been riding through to get home. The drivers were acting insane, and the whole right lane of my main artery home was flooded.

That said, a little more preparation and paranoia would have saved me the embarrassment and inconvenience of getting caught out. But this time of year the weather can be hard to anticipate. And I hate carrying everything but the kitchen sink "just in case," so sometimes one will misgauge things. It's just something to take in stride and handle the smartest way possible, I suppose.

Monday, October 21, 2013

When Things Wear Out

Welp, I need a lock. Here's what happened - over the last few years I've been rocking an OnGuard Pitbull in Medium (they've since drastically updated their product line). It's the lock featured in damn near every picture of my bike I've ever put on this block, mild-mannered, doing it's job without drawing attention to itself. Considering the thing has worn out before someone successfully managed to get through it and steal my bike, I'm considering framing it.

Here it is, faithfully securing my steed.

For my needs, it was the perfect U-Lock, an ideal combination of size, weight, and security. But it lived a long, brutal life. It's been hot, cold, wet, blasted with dusty wind, and dragged through every conceivable condition and it's just kept on trucking until this past week. I was out social riding, like you do, when suddenly the rotating plastic dust cover bit suddenly decided it no longer wanted to rotate. Meaning I couldn't put the key in the lock. I'm just really glad it wasn't locking my bike to something at the time.

My poor, jacked up bike lock.

I spent a while fucking about with it, and handed it to a friend to have a try. His solution was to smash it on the ground until the plastic covering the shackle came off. So it works now, sort of. It locks. But I probably should replace it, and I haven't lock shopped in a really long time.

Still faithfully limping along

When lock shopping, let's face it, the array of choices is dizzying. Being that I live in a metropolitan area with a lot of bikes, we also have a lot of bike theft. So cable locks are laughably inadequate. I need either a U-Lock or a chain and I'm not sure which direction to go. The newer version of the lock I had is now goofy looking as hell:

I'm also not sure what the difference is between this one and their "Brute" series, which apparently features the same locking mechanism but costs $25 more. 

There's also multiple brands! Kryptonite has an excellent reputation, as do Abus (though I know next to nothing about their products). While I enjoy getting new stuff, the act of locking up my bike is such a part of my routine that it's almost irritating to have to change it up. So, I'm looking for a lock that's a good combination of weight, security, price, and durability. So I guess, into the depths of Amazon product reviews I go!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

And there it has sat.

Ongoing medical drama is a huge pain in the ass. Both physically and mentally speaking, it's draining and painful. Consequently the last 3 weeks have been a no-fly zone in the world of my cycling. So my bike has been chillin' out in the garage, and there it has sat, forlornly staring at the door to the outside world. And since being out on my bike is my inspiration for this blog, as my bike has sat, so has the blog.

This past Friday though, was my last doctor's appointment for what is hopefully the next many, many months and I am cleared for takeoff! It is time to get back to normal. Again. So, who wants to go for a ride?!