Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for October, 2007

An autumn night ride

Friday, October 12th, 2007

I probably should have stayed home last night and rested in preparation for the Hilly Hundred, but I simply couldn’t do that. It was a beautiful night, if overcast and a bit chilly, and I had new wheels to test, as well as a Banjo Brothers Handlebar Bag I intend to use this weekend that hadn’t had a test run yet. I decided to do the Water Works ride.

It was chilly, and I had to guess what to wear to stay comfortable. It’s been a while since I even had to worry about that and I guessed that my long-sleeved jersey with my jogging suit jacket would work well, along with biking shorts with a pair of nylon pants over them.

I threw some stuff in the handlebar bag, including the Sigma Sport TriLED light, which can clip onto the handlebars, patch kit, cell phone, etc. I put my camera in the mesh side pocket even though I wasn’t sure if the pocket would hold it securely enough.

As soon as I got moving, I realized that I’d forgotten how much more restrictive warmer clothing can be and that I will have to get used to riding in colder weather again.

I soon forgot about all of that and had a fantastic ride. It was windy, which worked to my advantage for about the first half of the ride. I flew over some rolling hills and then down a curvy road. I was impressed with how well my new wheels were working; I even noticed some unexpected improvements in steering. The handlebar bag also affected handling, though, adding some noticeable drag and raising my center of gravity a bit. It wasn’t too bad, but definitely more noticeable than a saddle bag or even a rack trunk. I also noticed I could hear things rattling around in there occasionally. However, it was great having everything within reach, and putting my camera in the mesh pocket worked especially well. It seemed to hold it pretty securely, yet I could slip the camera in and out with ease when I wanted to use it.

My trip to the Water Works was pretty uneventful. I saw a few deer along the way and really enjoyed the cloudy sky; it was overcast, but a bit patchy and there were spots where the sun would shine through at times. I could smell smoke from fireplaces and it was a great complement to the cool crisp air. One deer even ran alongside me for a while, each of us looking at the other and apparently enjoying each other’s companionship.

Autumn Sky
Autumn Sky

When I turned to ride back the other way, I faced a stiff headwind. One thing that’s weird about Bloomington is that it’s rarely windy, except when it’s cold. I have no idea why that is, but I sure was reminded of that fact last night. It was getting fairly dark at this point and my ride took on an autumn night vibe. It was beautiful and mysterious and a little bit spooky, with many deer along the way and other creatures rustling through the woods. As I rode I thought of the people cozy in their homes and while that can be a great feeling, I was happy to be out riding for the time being.

After I made the descent down Moore’s Creek Road, it almost felt like I was in some kind of fantasy world with dim but golden light trickling into the valley and more deer and other fauna all around me. I felt lucky to be observing these feats of nature, even if I really was riding through a rural neighborhood and not some huge forest. I came around a corner and saw probably half a dozen deer grazing. I came to a stop completely silently and we stared each other down. They were standing and staring at me. I wasn’t sure what to do and started to reach for my camera. Still no movement. Something possessed me to whisper, “Hi” … just barely even making a sound. The deer turned and ran and I continued riding.

I stopped by Lake Monroe to rest for a moment and take a photo of my bicycle near the lake. I also put the front light on my bike at this time.

My bicycle by Lake Monroe
My bicycle by Lake Monroe

The light that I had brought isn’t very bright and there were no cars on this road. Fortunately, I’ve ridden it many times before and I’m pretty familiar with it. It wasn’t completely dark yet, although the big climb is under dense canopy and I had a little trouble seeing during that part. I made the climb and headed back toward home. The light the sky was still providing, combined with lights from headlights and my own light, were enough.

Riding at night
Night Riding

I hate stickers.

Friday, October 12th, 2007

I hate stickers. No, not all stickers, just ones on bicycles. No, not all stickers on bicycles, just the ones that come on bicycle components, loudly advertising the manufacturer and often even the model of that component. Specifically, wheels are generally the worst offender.

One of the first things I did when I got my road bike was to take off most of the stickers. Well, actually, Sarah did a lot of it because it’s damn near impossible to get those things off, and she’s better at it than I am (not to mention incredibly patient).  But a couple stickers we left on there because it just looked like too much of a pain to take them off.

Since I got a new wheelset, I removed all the stickers. These stickers weren’t as loud to begin with and were actually surprisingly tasteful, but my bicycle looks so much better with nice clean, unobstructed rims. In fact, it looks faster, too. It wasn’t hard getting these stickers off, but they left a gummy mess of glue behind that was really difficult to clean off, even with my new can of Finish Line Citrus Degreaser. This stuff cuts through the gunk on my chain like nobody’s business, but even with it, it took me probably 30 minutes per wheel to remove the gunk from the 5 stickers.

I think it was worth it. I should have taken before and after photos, but I didn’t. I really wish manufacturers would (a) not put stickers on their stuff or (b) at least have the common decency to use stickers that can be removed cleanly without a lot of fuss.

One of these days, I should take the rest of the stickers off my mountain bike wheels, too …

Great day for commuting by bicycle

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

Everything just fell into place this morning for my commute. I was moving a little slowly at first, but I got ready quickly. It helped that I had already prepared most of my stuff last night. I had both panniers today since I needed to bring a gift for a coworker whose wife is having a baby. We actually had a shower at work yesterday, but I forgot the gift at home. This is typical; I am pretty forgetful.

I got outside and was greeted with a beautiful morning with cool, crisp air. It almost felt like fall. Our heat wave finally broke and while it’s still supposed to be 80 degrees today, it was around 60 this morning. It was perfect riding weather and I finally feel fall is almost here — it’s still felt like summer up until now.

This was my first ride with my new wheel, a Shimano wheel with a 105 hub. It was a little hard to tell how much difference it’ll make because it’s a short ride and I had extra weight on the back. It seems pretty responsive though and I even accidentally did a little wheelie sprinting across the Bypass. Again, it could just be the extra weight on the back, but I was surprised how well my pedal strokes translated into power. I’ll give the new wheel a proper shakedown ride tonight, hopefully 25 miles or so.

The rest of the ride was smooth as glass as I rode through a residential area and then glided through IU’s campus, in tune with the rhythms of the pedestrians and other traffic. Students walk into the street without paying any attention to where they’re going and change speed or direction without warning, but I watched far ahead and planned my path, adjusting my line and my speed based on each student’s walking pace. I slipped mostly unnoticed between them. My timing was such that there were no cars at most of the stop signs when I arrived, so I didn’t even have to slow down.

I arrived at work on time, feeling alert and sporting a sly grin. I shouldn’t be allowed to have this much fun before work.

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