15 mile commute?

It was a bit much, maybe.

I dropped my daughter off at school and began the ride in to work. It was a beautiful, crisp, cool morning, around 30°F and warming. I rode my usual route, taking the Atlanta Beltline in to the end and then climbing the hill to Midtown. I arrived at the bike racks outside work, dismounted the bike, and pulled out my lock and keys. I looked at me keys and thought CRAP.

I had left my bike keys at home. I had reshuffled my keys the night before, leaving me with house keys and a rarely-used car key, but no bike keys. Doh.

I pondered my options: (1) leave the bike unlocked. Yeah, right. (2) Try to get the bike past security into the building. I wasn’t up for the fight. They don’t like bikes in the building here. Especially weird long bikes. (3) Drag my ass back home, get the key, and go back to work.

3 it was. Off I went, 5 miles on the bike back home, picked up the key, and then 5 miles back to work.

By the time I was done, I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, and a helmet liner under my helmet, but had shed the coats. I had found a nice equilibrium.

15 miles. That wasn’t so bad. Not an early start to the work day, but kind of refreshing.

Adventures in bike commuting

Today’s adventures:

1. This morning, the wall between the Beltline and the Midtown Promenade shopping center was DOWN. I celebrated with a cup of coffee at Starbucks. I had pledged to avoid the place until they had opened access, and now they have. Here’s hoping they keep it open, and they’re not just putting up a new fence.

2. Cheers to the jackass on the turquoise single speed bike who ran the light at 10th and Piedmont, almost hitting me.

3. First sighting today of a horse-drawn carriage in Piedmont Park. Also first sighting of a giant pile of horse poop on the road inside the park. Eww.

4. Today was likely the last trips my daughter will ride to school and home from after-care on my mountain bike with the Jandd expedition rack. The Surly Big Dummy is under construction at Intown Bikes, and should be ready when school starts again in January.

Adventures in bad bike parking

Don’t be this guy.


Bicycles (lamentations)

The bike commuting has been going great. I ride everywhere, whenever I am not forced not to. Forcings include:

  • Lightning
  • Rain with a child
  • Overly long trip (like to a suburb -blech-)
  • Too far/bad roads with a child
  • Too much cargo (like a heavy grocery trip)

Right now, my daughter rides on the back of my bike. I have a Jandd Expedition Rack, along with a Xtracycle Stoker Bar. She sits on the rack side-saddle (we call it “Amsterdam Style”), and holds on to the stoker bar. It works fine, but…

She’s getting heavier and heavier. I think that we are in the midst of a growth spurt. The rack is rated for 75 lbs, and I’m not sure how much longer we’ll be able to pull this off. Plus, the current setup can only carry a single child, and so I can’t haul a friend when I need to.

I’d like to go with a cargo bike setup. I was thinking that I might add an Xtracycle FreeRadical to my mountain bike, and that that would solve the problem. However, my bike has cantilever brakes, and Xtracycle says that the Xtracycle FreeRadical doesn’t work with cantilever brakes. So that leaves me in a sticky situation.

Here’s my target for a bike:

  • A reasonable daily commuter bike
  • Drop bars; I need better hand positions
  • Integrated shifter/brakes; I shift too much for downtube or bar-end shifters
  • Disc brakes; I need better braking distance in the rain
  • Ability to carry a child safely

That’s a long way from my current bike. My bike is:

  • A circa 1994 Giant Sedona mountain bike, which is a decent hardtail cromoly steel frame
  • Flat bars
  • Shifters that are on their last legs, integrated into the brake levers
  • A front chainring that is wobbly at best, and slips periodically
  • Cantilever brakes

Option 1: strip the bike down to the frame, add an Xtracycle kit, and replace a bunch of stuff: the handlebars, the shifters, the chainring, and add disc brakes. I’d think that I could add NEW disc brakes, even if the Xtracycle kit wouldn’t support my old brakes. I’d also need to add a disc-compatible front fork.

An alternate strategy would be to buy a Surly Big Dummy, and outfit it the way I want. I don’t think that it would cost any more than Option 1.

My Bike-to-Work-Day Poll

I filled out a “Bike to Work Day” poll. They asked an interesting question:

“What facilities would improve your commute?”

My answers:

  • Replace on-street parking with wider roads or bike lanes.
  • Bike path intersections with roads currently require cyclists to press the “walk” button in order to get the lights to cycle so that bikes can cross safely. Reprogram intersections so that the cars don’t try to kill us.
  • Bike boxes to prevent right-hooks at intersections.
  • Fix grates, potholes, and infrastructure-related dips in pavement. They are hazards.
  • Add Bus+Bike lanes to replace traffic lanes. It’ll help buses as well as bikes to speed through traffic.
  • Reduce traffic speed through bumps and enforcement.
  • Remove pedestrian bump-outs and on-street crosswalk warnings. They narrow the roads and limit passing opportunities, creating bottlenecks in otherwise open roads, and creating contention between bikes and cars.
  • Increase bicycle parking, in visible areas with pedestrian traffic.

What are your answers? Go fill one out!

In other news:

  • The bike commute continues unabated.
  • I’m definitely slimming down since I started biking. I’m down maybe 9 pounds since December 2011.
  • I mounted the Xtracycle Stoker Bar on my bike. I had to get a new seat post, but it works, and my daughter is more stable on it. More on that later.

Atlantic Station Doesn’t Like Bikes

I ended up at Atlantic Station at lunchtime today, trying to get a new SIM card for my phone. I biked over and locked my bike to the parking meter in front of the store. I’m working with the guy at the counter when the security guard walked in. He said that I could not lock my bike to the meter. Instead, I was supposed to lock it to a bike rack, located a block down the road. I can park 3 tons of SUV at the meter in front of the store, but I can’t park 30 pounds of bike there.
I said sure, whatever, and left Atlantic Station when I was done in the store. I was originally planning to have lunch there, but I decided that if they didn’t want my bike there, then they didn’t want me there. See ya.
I have, at various times, been horrified about Atlantic Station in various ways, from the unsustainable parking-first design, to the chain stores you find everywhere, to the relatively low occupancy (and the creepy silver foil people in the empty storefronts).
But, being told that bikes aren’t welcome is more than enough of a hint that I should, whenever I can, spend my money elsewhere. And so i shall.

My Rebellious Bike…

…and the security guard who let me know that Atlantic Station would prefer that I didn’t stick around.


Reckless Driving

1. My weight is down 5.4 pounds since I started biking.

2. The weather has been gorgeous. Biking every day has been no problem at all.

3. I drove in one day, a couple of weeks ago, because I had to go meet up with the family in Sandy Springs right after work. A bike trip up there from Midtown Atlanta would have been a Nasty Traffic Adventure, and I just wasn’t up for it.

4. We’re supposed to get rain this afternoon. I’ve got the rubber ducky poncho in case.

5. I had a run-in with a driver today. I was headed north on Parkway/Charles Allen at Ponce De Leon. I was slowing down for the red traffic light. A woman driving an 90′s Buick Roadmaster station wagon (blue with wood sides) decided that I wasn’t going fast enough, and pulled up beside me as if to pass, then started drifing to the right, squeezing me into the shoulder (where cars are usually parked, but which was clear today), to the right of the sharrows. Then she stopped at the light next to me.

I yelled at her through the window: “That was really dangerous. You need to be more careful.”

She rolled down her window. A 50-year old woman, dressed in blue scrubs, with a coffee mug in her hand: “You were going too slow.”

Me: “I was going as fast as a car. The light is red.”

Her: “You were taking the whole lane.”

Me: “I was taking the same space as a car and going the same speed.”

Blah blah blah. It was obvious that the problem wasn’t that I was slowing her down or actually in her way at all. It was obvious that she just didn’t like having a bicycle in front of her. The problem for her was that I was a bike. She wouldn’t have thought twice about doing that if I was a car.

What she did was illegal in Massachusetts (http://bikesafeboston.com/laws). I’m not sure if it was illegal in Georgia, but it certainly should be. She was trying to put me in danger. If I hadn’t been paying attention, or if I didn’t have a rearview mirror on my glasses, or if there had been cars parked right there, I could have been injured.

Moron. So it goes.

Bike commuting shorts

1. I acquired bicyclingatlanta.com. I’m thinking of moving this blog over there.

2. According to the computer, I have lost 3.89 pounds, even though I feel like I’ve lost 20.

3. From my office at 5pm pn a Friday, it’s just traffic-jammed cars as far as the eye can see. Biking home will probably save me 20 minutes.

4. I inhaled 2 bugs Thursday, none Friday.

5. Pretty much, as a rule, if a cyclist is wearing bike shorts or skinny jeans, they’re not interested in talking about their bike commute while they ride.

6. I had the opportunity to clean up and tune up an old touring bike I had laying around and give it to a friend. She actually used it to bike to work, which makes me incredibly happy.

7. My front pannier broke. It was an old (18 years) pair of REI’s then-cheapest small panniers, which had an aluminum rod that helped keep its shape. The rod fit into a little metal tube, but it didn’t stay in there securely, and it poked through the fabric and got caught in the spokes and bent. I had to use my knife to cut rhe bar out so that I could get home.

8. I got a pair of Jandd economy panniers. I needed a small pair that would fit on the lowrider rack, and that had an elastic mount point, since I take the bags off the bike when I get to work .My experience with Jandd gear is that it is bulletproof and well-designed, so I jumped. There were only a couple of things that I had to tweak. First, the top hangers on the bags were too far apart, so they didn’t fit on the lowrider. Second, the pannier’s handle had a leather strap (for connecting the handles of the two panniers together) that would have become badly tangled in the spokes. So, I pounded the snaps out of the strap with a hammer, which was easy. They fit great.

9. Shout out to Susan the GSU law student and Jeff.

More beautiful riding

1. I keep forgetting that I suck at blogging.

2. Cheers to the bird that camped out on my handlebars and pooped on them twice while I was at work yesterday.

3. The bike commute is going freaking great. I’m bicycling every day. I only drove to work 3 days in 2012 so far.

4. I’ve used the bike rain cape a few times, and it’s workes great each time. I suspect it will be unbearably warm in the summer.

5. When I get to 4 way stops with cars, I’ve found that they tend to just sit there and wave me through, instead of taking their turn. This can screw up the whole flow of an intersection. I’ve taken to looking away and avoiding eye contact, so that they go when it’s their turn.

6. I made my first bona fide night ride with the new lights, a short trip to the grocery store, and the headlight lit up the street like it was daylight. Very nice.

7. This weather has been unbelievably nice. Why isn’t everyone biking?