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When we think we have a rough time with snow here in Baltimore this winter, think of our Northern comrades in Alaska. Check out Bicycles and Icicles. It made me feel kinda wimpy for my bike being inside for a week. These folks are serious adventurers!
I realize that comparing climates is futile. Plenty of cities with much harsher winters than Baltimore have great bike ridership and strong “bike cultures.” But we do also have pretty long and terrible summers. But there are hotter cities with plenty of ridership, too. Maybe it’s just a matter of cycling being incredibly fun and of lots of people wanting to do it, wherever they live?
Still, this is some wild stuff I’d love to try one day. If we keep having winters like this (and climate change scientists often say we might), I think I might have to invest in a hardcore snow bike like these intrepid cyclists pedal around the snowy North.
If you’re a big fan like me (or a moderate fan) of Planet Bike’s great bike accessories and advocacy, you probably have one of their lights on your bike. Their popular LIGHT FINDER for this year is up. I have the new Blaze 2 Watt and the Blaze 1 Watt. They’re freakin awesome. But the Alias? Wow. When Baby comes to ElRo and I, we might have to score one of these for whatever cargo bike we adopt.
I did! I am almost ashamed of the bevy of bike goodies I scored this year for Christmas from my family members. Even more than last year. First, there’s the Christmas bulb pictured above.
Next, there’s the Planet Bike Blaze 2 Watt LED front headlight. I’ve had the 1 Watt Blaze for a while and have really liked it. I’ve sort of always mean to “review” it, but we don’t usually do that stuff — not on principle or anything. Anyway, on the way back from Moonlight Madness, a Honda stopped while Dan and I were pulling out from getting some soda. The driver said something like, “Your light is giving me a headache. That’s a crazy light.” We didn’t know what to say, and I think she got embarrassed because she just said, “Well, at least you’re safe,” and drove off. Another time, more recently, I was riding up Roland Avenue in Hampden. There’s a lady on a motorized chair who rides in the bike lanes. It would piss me off, but she always does it against traffic, always yields to bikes and always gives you a, “Hey, Hon.” I like her. One night she said, “Hey, buddy, I like your light!” I thanked her as I sped home in the dark. I can’t wait to see what the 2 Watt will evince from folks.
The mini pump I carry is a piece of junk. It was literally the cheapest one at the store that I picked up to have on me just in case. It’s gotten me home before when I got flats. But it’s a work-out to use that beast. My brother got me the Planet Bike Peace Pump (mini) I wanted. It doesn’t quite fit my saddle bag with my other stuff in it like I’d hoped, but I plan to work it out.
Half of the reason we all carry repair gear (I assume) is to help other people out of a jam. This pump only does presta valves; so I almost feel like a jerk carrying it. Also, my tire gauge needs the schrader adapter anyway. I might have just made more work for myself next time I run a flat. But: It’s so pretty!
I feel like a sucker carrying my repair gear on my back, but I don’t feel like loading up (or paying for) panniers — when it’s hard enough to get my bike out of my bedroom, then apartment, then building. So my brother also gave me the Big Buddy Saddlebag. It attaches just like the Timbuk2 version I bought and returned this fall. However, it wins over the T2 version because it has reflective piping (which you can see in the picture) and because, well, it has a light loop like almost every other saddlebag out there. Timbuk2 was so worried about their logo that they did not include a light loop. I have a rack-mounted light (I run two rears lights), but most folks would lose their lights with the Timbuk2 version, since it covers up the entire seatpost anyway. Bad design, bad. The light loop on the Planet Bike version, by the way, perfectly fits Planet Bike’s rear lights, pretty securely. And the big one holds (with room to spare): 3 tire levers; tire gauge; big patch kit; multi-tool; 32×700 tube.
(Seen here with Superflash Stealth)
Finally, my winter gloves are missing since I moved in June, and my lighter full-finger gloves got, literally, destroyed in April when I crashed. (I should take some pictures; there’s still some blood on there.) From my parents, who gave me the bulb and headlight, I received the Planet Bike Borealis Winter Gloves. These suckers have the pinky and ring-finger together for added warmth and are supposed to be waterproof. The Giant gloves I had last year were very warm. But in weather like we’ve been having lately, speeding-winds usually rendered my pinkies numb and useless — not to mention that when they got wet, I froze. I haven’t gotten these wet yet, but I’m hoping they’ll help with my cracked/bloody knuckles. This one, from this past weekend, cracked like an egg in a few places and really bled a lot.
So what kind of awesome bike gifts did ya’ll give/receive? I gave someone awesome a nice rear light for a birthday in December, but I can’t say I gave a single bike-related holiday gift this year.
But fun cycling things are in the works! Okay. Dan and I (Johnny) are meeting tonight for coffee to go over some details for a spirited ride through Charm City next month, complete with LED Xmas lights on our bikes. Lots of people and lots of lights. Last time we tried to plan it, we literally drank too much PBR on a Sunday afternoon and lost track of what the hell we were talking about.
Anyway, next month. Big fun. Oh, yes. Stay tuned.
Baltimore bike bloggers (left to right): Barry, Johnny, Zack, Dan, Dave. I feel like I should write something about the relationship between coffee and cycling, given the “You’re going for COFFEE?!” that ensued when ElRo went to get us some brews. But I’m tired, and it’s Friday, and this weather is driving me toward the coffee itself. I just like this picture.
[Photo courtesy of GHCC.]
A [terrible cell phone] picture of me with my sweet fanny pack. Read about former Baltimore resident Rantwick’s fanny pack. You know, it beat a messenger bag for not sliding all over the place or hurting my shoulder or both. And it beat a backpack for not making me sweat. I caught a lot of guff for it, though, which I think is funny. It smelled like campfire for a while, but it’s largely gone away. I used it to carry my camera (etc.) to Sunday Streets this weekend, on foot. Now that makes me a geek, probably. I’m too tired to wax philosophical about this blue nylon tonight.
I usually try to keep my ride pretty clean. I’ve been a little lazy about it lately, and it really needs a good bath. This got me thinking. My dad has always said, “Before winter sets in you should put a good coat of wax on you car.” One of his points being is that it helps keep the salt off the car’s finish in the winter months. This does make sense to me. So I’m thinking of cleaning up the old horse and putting a coat of wax on the seat/chain stays, down tube and fork. Can anyone think of a good reason not to do this?
Also with winter on the horizon does anyone have any cold weather riding tips you would like to share with the cycling community? One I use, I got from Sheldon Brown. Use clear tape to block off a few air vents on your helmet. It’s a easy and very inexpensive way to help keep your head a little warmer and not compromise the fit of your brain bucket.
I was standing at the bus stop yesterday, on my way home from work, and I saw a gent on a bike that I’ve seen a million times. And yesterday, I realized that we’d met at least twice and chatted. But, in the midst of traffic and far-away-ness (I’m near-sighted), I have missed the connection between these “two” people and their being the same person until exactly yesterday. And then I felt like a jerk for never saying, “Hi!”
I think helmets have a lot to do with recognizing someone on/off his or her bike. I certainly do not want to start a fight wherein everyone calls everyone else a Nazi for how they feel about helmets. I always wear one, but I’ve also had more than my share of non-cycling head injuries, and my helmet saved my brain in April when I crashed on my head/face. Anyway, helmets seem (to me at least) to throw off the recognition we have of folks. People’s heads are shaped differently, and there’s no hair to see. The straps even change the shape of a person’s face. And sometimes one’s usual motion/posture are shifted a bit by wearing a helmet and leaning over a bike.
Certainly, I’ve recognized folks by their bikes, and some people I see so often, I can’t miss them. But if I meet a cyclist (like the gent I see most days) who’s not holding his or her bike and not wearing her or his helmet, I totally wonder she or he gives me a funny look when I see them riding. Maybe I’m just dense. I do rely on recognizing walking styles (etc.) to recognize people from afar. Maybe I should use helmet types? I mean, I’ve been recognized by my orange helmet a few times in my short ownership of it.
Am I the only one who has trouble identifying folks in helmets and in traffic?
The folks over at Bike Hacks have a funny post about different “types” of bike commuters. Read on! At the risk of sounding like a pig, I’ve seen a lot of “cleavage gals” around town with universities back in session. Being a married man, I try to look elsewhere (even sitting on the bus, where’s I’m not likely to hit anything). I think that people probably don’t realize they’re bent over so much. One that’s missing from the list, though: The Ultra Fred. You know ’em. Might have been ’em. I have, especially on my mega zip-tied previous steed. I’ve seen a lot of Grasshopper folks, riding with their knees up and legs spread.
I also noticed this morning that there seems to be a correlation between seat height and safety gear in Baltimore these days. On one hand, I see folks trying to get up hills with their seats like three inches too low who are rocking a helmet, vest, gloves, leg clips, lights galore, etc. All that thought put into cycling, and their knees must be crying all the way home. On the other hand, there are folks who look like they just bought a bike at REI, didn’t bother with lights, helmets, adjustments and just decided to ride. While it’s certainly awesome any time that someone decides to start riding a bike for transportation, riding a bike that’s poorly adjusted is questionable enough on its own. But when you do it at night with no lights or reflectors or anything, that’s just bad judgment (assuming that no one wants to get hurt).
I don’t have a point. I just had a red-eye.
I never posted much from Washington with everything that happened in August (tragedy, pregnancy news, being sick, etc.).
On a Friday, we were catching the Metro to Dupont Circle to visit a bookstore we really like (Second Story Books), and we walked past the IRS building. On a bike rack, this orange beauty jumped out at us. A Yuba Mundo.
Not knowing we are pregnant, we admired it in a sort of abstract way. But I’ve been thinking of cargo bikes lately, for a possible purchase in the next year or so. And this bike has been hacked nicely!
As what I suppose is the first mention of it here (unless you read my blog), one of our NBBB-type folks is pregnant! ElRo (my lovely wife) is pregnant, and we’re hitting the first official OB appointment today. As you can guess, her stomach is doing bizarre things, and some of the things she used to like aren’t jiving (Nutella, I hardly knew ya….). Likewise, hunger pangs rarely follow meal times. So I concocted what we’re calling Mommy Mix — trail mix you can eat whenever and wherever the hell you want to.
When I go hiking and camping, there is a limit to how much “modern” or “high-tech” gear and methods I have the patience for. “Leave No Trace” is awesome. Waterproof gear not made of thin nylon packcloth is awesome. Stormshield tents are awesome. LED flashlights are awesome. Teva sandals are awesome. Dr. Bronner’s soap rocks my world (even at home.)
However, there are some things that I cannot abide, like dehydrated food, energy gels and energy bars, etc. (No offense meant of you like them. That’s cool. I’m saying what I like. Go ahead and start a blog about what you like if you think this stuff is the best thing ever. I’ll promise to read it.) I was an Army Brat, and I grew up eating all kinds of dehydrated food for fun. I’m totally over it now. If I’m burning enough calories to need an energy bar/gel, I’m probably hungry, too. So I’d rather, you know, eat some good food. I guess the problem comes in when you eat any old food like greasy/salty chips and sugary sodas. I’d rather get the nutrients I need to keep going from somewhat normal food than something bizarrely engineered (which is often unfriendly to vegetarians like myself anyway).
So when I hike, camp and cycle, I try to think of what I eat rather than supplementing it with other stuff. And if I’m doing something that requires stamina, I like me some trail mix. Last time I went for a long hike, I made my own with:
Various salty nuts (!)
Vanilla yogurt covered raisins
Something cheesy I can’t remember (mini somethings with cheddar)
Maybe a tiny bit of good pretzels (but not used for cheap filler like the crap you get at the store)
I also made a batch for my father because he was hiking with our group, and he would have made me some if I were still a little guy. It was coveted by all. I mean, here were folks with pretzel-laden junk mix that they probably spent more money on, and my trail mix had only the stuff I like in it, in the proportions that I like. I was the envy of my peers. Luckily for my peers, I like to share and did so.
Dan and I usually score coffee and chocolate when we cycle. Riding in Chucks/Tevas with fenders, racks and cargo shorts, we’d look pretty silly gulping down energy gels while our stomachs growled (see above parenthetical statement if you’re a fan — I ain’t looking for no fight, hon). Dan brought some very delicious chili pepper chocolate to Moonlight Madness, and here I am a month later still thinking about that yummy stuff. We enjoy goodies when we ride. I think I might start concocting cycling mix as the weather winds down to something cooler. Something that goes equally well with coffee, water and beer.
What would be in your perfect mix of cycling/trail mix?
Zack and Dan and I had coffee tonight with Zack’s four month old son. Then Dan and I took a long walk around Hampden, Rolden and Roland Park, sipping root beers, talking about the direction this blog has been heading lately. When we started this website and our tongue-in-cheek bike “club”, we had nothing in mind but fun. Why blog? To spread the fun. Environmental issues aren’t going to get as many people to ride bikes as posting pictures and paragraphs about having a fun ride will. Maybe I’m just hedonistic?
I fully realize that I am largely to blame for the recent negativity. Perhaps some of my recent posts would have been better on my personal blog (five years and going strong!). In my defense, seeing a fallen cyclist in the road does tend to breed negative thoughts and feelings, and reading hateful comments on The Sun doesn’t help. But we have to work to get past what happened and to get moving toward remembering why we cycle in the first place: it’s fun. Yes, it’s good for the planet, good for your body. But the best reason to ride is that it’s the most enjoyable way to get anywhere. If we could hear Mr. Yates, he’d be telling us to get out and spread the cycling message through example and a smile, not through angry words.
We promised ourselves we would not use this blog only to complain about cars, about any segments of the cycling community (roadies, hipsters, Freds, etc.), about politics. While we’ve done (I think) a good job of not being divisive about cyclists, we’ve gone and slipped into some us/them mind-set lately. Cars/bikes. Drivers/cyclists. That’s just stupid. I only know two cyclists who don’t have cars, and I’m one of them. Hell, you could argue that it’s good for cyclists to have cars because each of them is one more driver who looks out for other people. That’s an example we could all use on the road. Everywhere.
And certainly lumping all drivers together because of people like The Sun‘s commenters and the people who yell at us is as bad as the folks who lump us all together because they see cyclists running redlights and nearly running over pedestrians.
Something gnawing at me says, “Mr. Yates just died last week! We can’t act happy when the police haven’t even found the truck yet!” But ask yourself this, as I have: What would you tell us if you were Mr. Yates? I‘d say to keep riding. To have fun and let everyone know it. I‘d say that focusing only on danger and tragedy forever isn’t going to get butts on saddles.
So, in the spirit of lightening up, I give you Roxy, who looks like she ran into a wall.
[Roxy photo by ElRo. Evil Crack Monkey drawing and photo by Johnny.]
Well the NBBB rolled on downtown on Thursday night in the Moonlight Madness ride. For the exception of a few flats and a bad spill everyone seemed to have a good time. Thank you, thank you , thank you to the folks who put this ride together. I totally enjoyed myself. It was so great to see people from all different walks of life with all different kinds of bikes come together to take a ride. It was also great to meet some of the folks who visit this blog and be able to say thanks for visiting, face to face. To the guy who took the spill: I think I can speak for everyone on the ride and say, get well soon, fellow velo.
In other news, I’m gonna be representing the NBBB down at OC for a few days. I’m planning on riding the length of the island. I’ll be sure to post about it with some pics. Has anyone out there ridden this before? If so, anything I should look out for or look forward too?