Long Absence

April 16th, 2012

I haven’t posted in here in a good three weeks, but as I noted then, the original plan for this blog has somewhat disintegrated. Since last week, I’m no longer working at Hub Bicycle (and after all that promotion here!).

I haven’t mentioned it in a while, but I finally got some inspiration to close up the case on my bike light, and I plan on actually testing it out soon. Here’s to hoping my “off the shelf” lighting works, and is quite bright!

Another bike related project I’m looking at is making the TB Designs panniers. While my own design is functional, it has a small problem with keeping its shape. I suppose I could retrofit it with some aluminum bracing, but I really like the idea of the TB Designs: have a separate bag and rack-mount. I think the benefit he touts is that you can make the bag of very light material to cut a little weight off. I like the idea of being able to transport cargo of many sizes and shapes and then be able to easily take it offer the bike at your destination. After many readings and re-readings of his page, I understand what’s going on, and I’ll try to post my own instructions once I make it.

My other project was to turn my (and the fiancee’s) Surly Crosschecks from double chainrings to triples. This went off pretty smoothly, with the exception that going off the current Surly parts list is very confusing: in the last year they switched derailleurs from having a double (i.e. the front derailleur is only compatible with two chainrings) on the stock bike to a triple (to make this conversion easier, presumably). After a few hours scratching my head, I looked up the parts on the 2010 model to confirm that in fact, it had a double derailleur. A few trips to the semi-local bike shop got the parts I needed and put me back in business.

A Hitch in the Plan

March 23rd, 2012

So my plan after leaving my office job was to be able to maintain my “weather and clothing” posts. The flaw in that logic is twofold: I’m riding for transportation less, and I’m able to wear casual clothing while doing it. The concept that started this blog (two months ago, so long ago!) was to help novice commuters with less generic advice than is normally offered. So, I will continue to offer advice based on the weather conditions, but chances are I won’t be exercising that exact advice.


The last few days have seen some downright summertime weather, with morning temperatures in the 60s and highs up to 80. As I’ve mentioned before, in those situations, I recommend one of two approaches. If you have a gym membership or don’t mind braving the filth of a Planet Fitness locker room, ride in whatever you feel like and shower or change when you arrive at your destination. I did this when I first started working downtown, and while I tried it in both summer (hot!) and winter (dirty), I found that it made riding to work downright cumbersome.

My preferred strategy is to ride more slowly, and maximize airflow over the body to keep the skin cool. Since I used to work in a “business casual” office, that meant riding in a T-shirt and then putting my collared shirt on when I got to my destination. Wearing lighter shoes, such as sneakers or loafers without socks, made a huge difference versus the waterproof walking shoes I wore all winter. I just wore my regular office pants, rolled up to avoid grease. As always, I recommend using a bag that attaches to the bike as this is both cooler for you and also neater for your clothes.

I always found it difficult to avoid sweating when the temperature exceeded 70 degrees on my ride in. For that, it’s all about mitigation, namely, ride slower.

I am pleased to announce that I am now a syndicated bike blogger: I have a guest post on Josh Zisson’s site, Bike Safe Boston. I think that makes me syndicated, anyway. Head over to check out my post entitled “One Simple Principle for Comfort on the Road”.

In other news, I used my new front (left) gigantic pannier with a bulky load for the first time. Unfortunately, because the load was pretty small, it didn’t force the bag into a solid shape, and one of the clips jumped off while I was climbing the Longfellow Bridge. That was unpleasant. I may have to retrofit with some velcro loops. On the other hand, the bag performed admirably with groceries and folded laundry. It also stayed nice and dry today (which my electronics appreciated).


Temperature: 54 degrees

Road condition: Wet

Clothing: My normal office attire with waterproof shell and hood on top, light Pearl Izumi gloves, rain pants, Rockport (I am embarrassed to say I’ve been calling them Timberland) shoes.

Comfort: Excellent! I stayed totally dry, didn’t feel hot the whole ride.

Everyone seems to have stayed off the road today: it was as empty as the middle of winter (this mild winter, that is). Plenty of car traffic and double parking, though.

I attended the Hub Bicycle Basic Maintenance/Flat Fix Clinic on Wednesday (as employee training?), and I was really surprised by the format. I guess knowing Emily, I shouldn’t be, but the clinic was rather expansive in what it covered. There was a very thorough demo on changing a flat (I learned some things!), chain lubing, basic maintenance things to look out for, bike cleaning (hint: not this) and a general discussion of bikes and bike components. As one attendee remarked, “I wish I had known this five months ago,” which was a sentiment I can relate to.

I rode my mountain bike into work so I can pack it in the car for my trip to NYC this weekend. I also wore my clipless shoes (I have touring pedals on both my mountain and my commuter/touring bike), which made me feel really fast. It’s great riding a variety of bikes: they all behave so differently, it’s a totally different experience – this one has lower pressure tires, disc brakes, and a slightly more relaxed geometry than my other bikes. I was really tempted to ride down the stairs at City Hall Plaza, but I didn’t want to start my work day with torn up clothes, dirt, and cuts. As an aside, does anyone else feel a little miffed that the city rents out the plaza for months at a time, making it very inconvenient to cross?


Temperature: 41

Road condition: A few puddles, but otherwise dry

Clothing: Light spring jacket, clipless bike shoes.

Comfort: I started off the ride cold: for no particular reason, I rode without gloves, and then also remembered that the bike shoes are super permeable to air. Those things didn’t bother me after a little riding – it also helped my morale to keep leapfrogging my fiancee, who was driving most of the same route as I.

Cold and Dry

March 6th, 2012

Good news, everyone! I got access to my camera phone pictures again! Although I ordered a USB bluetooth receiver for my computer, it was shipped from China (see the screenshot below), and estimated to take a full month to arrive. However, now it appears it will be here imminently (unless the package has to be de-contaminated for a full month). Not bad for a $2.50 part with free shipping!

Shipping history

From Huangzhou, China to Somerville, MA in only 8 days!

A few days ago, I saw a guy riding on Cambridge Street downtown who had lights in his shoe covers! They flashed with about a 2 second period (1 second on, one second off). They weren’t especially bright, but it’s a pretty cool idea. You can see the lights on his ankle in the picture.

Light up feet

This man had shoes that flashed!

Also, Hubway is definitely landing! There are now (empty) stations at Government Center and Charles Circle. The media reports that Somerville, Cambridge, and Brookline will all be getting stations this summer, which is very exciting! I’m going to bet, however, that given the winter precipitation (“snow”) last week, the system manager will be waiting a few weeks to put in the bikes.


It seems we’re back to winter today, with a temperature of 22 in the morning. I wore the Nutcase helmet, which kept my head warm. I had on Polypro Pearl Izumi gloves, which left my hands a little cold. (Still haven’t found my other warm glove.) Otherwise, a fine commute. Last night was windy: one should always know in Boston that lots of wind means either a thunderstorm (in the summer) or serious cold (in the winter).

Temperature: 22 degrees

Road condition: Dry

Clothing: Heavy winter coat, light Pearl Izumi gloves, Timberland shoes.

Comfort: Warm everywhere except perhaps my chin and hands. The riding kept me warm.

Cold and dry; Non-bikers

February 3rd, 2012

This morning was the first “cold” morning at about 25 degrees. My face regretted the lack of protection, but otherwise I was nice and warm. It was one of those really borderline days, where a few degrees colder, or a little windier, I would have had to cover more skin. Still on the fixed gear bike.

Clothing: Heavy winter jacket, wool gloves, messenger bag, waterproof shoes.

As a transportation cyclist in a world (at work) nearly devoid of such people, there are often conversations about how awful or dangerous biking must be. I think the attention one draws may be enough to discourage some people; I know walking into the office covered by soaking wet rain gear gets no small amount of unwanted looks and remarks. (I happen to love biking in the rain, for the record.) On windy, stormy, cold, wet, slick, or even hot days there are constant questions “why would you bike?” A few months back my dad called me in a panic to tell me how dangerous cycling is, as a colleague’s son had received brain damage from a crash.

I haven’t found a good way to deflect these unwanted questions, but bland responses of “I take all the precautions” and “It’s a lovely day out” usually diminish the responses; attempting to explain the  philosophy of vehicular cycling may be sometimes useful, but it is always painful. What does anyone else do to deal with the unwanted remarks garnered by your relatively banal choice of transportation?

No ride today

January 20th, 2012

I didn’t ride in today, as I’m going to NYC for the weekend. That’s too bad, as I won’t get to ride on snow today.

In future posts, I’ll try to break up the monotony of the “Weather” theme by talking about practical things from the day’s ride I wish I had known sooner. Some probably topics are equipment (racks, fenders, bags), maintenance (chain, brakes, storage), and road riding (etiquette, laws, safety, routes).

For today, I’ll mention the most recent maintenance I did on my Crosscheck: tightening the headset. You see, as with any second hand bike purchase, there were plenty of maintenance items that needed to be done. In fact, as my standards for ride quality go up, I find that second hand bikes need an extreme overhaul: new cables, new brake pads, brake tuning, wheel hub cleaning, drive train cleaning, new tires. Like many bike dorks, I try to do the work myself.

In the case of this bike, I wanted to convert it from single speed to geared (I basically bought a really expensive frame at the end of the day), so lots of parts had to go. I also discovered a mysterious wobble when using only the front brakes. It turned out it was a combination of three things: loose front hub axle nuts (i.e. the wheel itself was loose from the frame), worn brake pads, and a loose headset. Immediately after making those changes, the wobble would go away, but gradually return. I would tighten the headset incredibly tight, temporarily solve the problem, and then later have it return.

Fast forward to this weekend. Fed up with eight months of this wobble problem, I brought the bike into Broadway Bicycle School. I described the problem, and the mechanic suspected it was an insufficiently seated star nut: there just wasn’t enough leverage connecting the headset cap to the steerer tube, hence the wobble when braking. As soon as we pulled off the headset cap (I should mention at this point the headset is threadless), not only was the mechanic proven correct (the star nut was seated about 1/4 inch down instead of the 1 1/2 or 2 inches it should have been), but from my latest cranking down on the headset cap, I had actually pulled one end of the star nut out of the steerer tube entirely!

Our first fix, to just punch the star nut to its proper location despite being deformed, didn’t last long. So I was back in the shop last night to bang that star nut all the way out of the way and then insert a new one. This should solve the problem permanently, which is pretty satisfying.

More about me

January 15th, 2012

Following are some more data points you might want to know about me when comparing your own routine to mine.

Age: 26

Gender: Male

Years getting around on the bike: 3

Uses for the bike: Getting around, mountain biking, road touring, just going for rides

Commute distance (each way): 3 mi

Total miles per day (avg): 8 mi (add in those errands)

Basic commute attire: I work in an office, so business casual. Shoes get a lot of abuse, so I leave a pair at the office. Roll up the pant leg. 55-70 degrees

Summer attire: Pack the dress shirt, add it when I get there. 70+ degrees

Summer mid-day attire: Nothing you can do: just embrace the sweat and ride slow.

Winter attire: Heavy Eddie Bauer jacket, wool gloves. Scarf around the face when it’s 20 or below. You can break a sweat at any temperature. 30 degrees and below.

Rain attire: Whatever I would wear otherwise plus rain pants, waterproof shoes, hooded waterproof jacket.

Any other temperature: Mix and match with lighter jackets and gloves.

Any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments.

What is this about?

January 12th, 2012

I like biking in all weather, and I thought others might benefit to hear what one other biker is actually wearing and riding in different conditions. So, I’ll try to post here regularly, especially in the bad weather, what I’m wearing and how it’s working.

Like most, I have a few standard setups, depending on conditions.

Bikes: I have a Surly Crosscheck as my regular commuter. I’ve got a back rack and front rack, 16 speeds, and fenders. Battery lights that I’m working to switch for a dynamo hub. It may weight 40 pounds, but I can carry a good 80 pounds of cargo (2 panniers+front rack) comfortably. For the winter, I have Nokian studded tires. The rest of the year, Michelin road 28mm road tires.

I also have a Surly (I know, I love them) Steamroller fixed gear for the nice weather. The last two winters I rode only fixed, but this year I’ve relied on the Crosscheck a lot more. No fenders, no racks. I might throw some race blades and 35mm dirt tires on if the weather’s bad and the mood suits me (that setup worked very well in the past.)

Clothing: I have three modes for commuting. For the cold and snowy I break out my heavy duty Eddie Bauer down jacket: it’s worth its weight in gold. Once they start salting the roads I wear rain pants almost every day in the winter to keep the crap off me. For warmer and rainy, I wear a jacket or sweater with a breathable rain jacket on top, and the rain pants. If it’s hot out, I ride with my shirt untucked (I’m an office worker, folks) or just in my undershirt (and add the button-down at my destination). Yeah, sometimes I break a sweat: that’s life.