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Archive for the 'Working on bikes' Category

Mountain biking

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

My mountain bike was not in working order for quite some time. The biggest problem was that the chain thoroughly rusted after some winter riding, and it was a while before I could find room in the budget to buy a new chain. It also needed some other work related to the winter riding, which really took its toll on the bike — especially since I foolishly put it away with snow still stuck to it and then forgot about it. Whoops.

Anyway, I finally got the mountain bike rolling again, just in time to fit in a ride last weekend. My friend Dave and I headed out to Brown County State Park. The trails there had just reopened after the latest round of storms, some of which were quite severe. There were even a couple of tornados in the area, though not exactly where we were.

Our ride was a real treat. It was hot, but once we got back in the woods, in the shade, it was a few degrees cooler, and a stiff breeze helped keep us cool.

We rode the North Tower Loop and had an absolute blast. Being Memorial Day weekend, we expected the trails to be busy, but there were surprisingly few people out. We did see  family hiking two miles into the woods in flip-flops, who seemed to have gotten in a little over their heads. Not too bad compared to the past, where we have seen things like people with babies in a seat on the back of their bike, taking to the mountain bike trails. Yeesh.

We were really enjoying the ride. The trails at Brown County have amazing flow and it felt great to be on a roller coaster ride through the woods. It’s hard to explain, but somehow it’s simultaneously thrilling and relaxing.

After we finished the loop, we decided to see if we could find the new Green Valley Trail that’s in progress. We had heard that part of it was done, and open. We found it fairly quickly and checked it out.

The new trail is a lot of fun. You can tell a lot of work has gone into this when you see some impressive rock armoring, or a bridge like this:


Like all the Brown County trails, the Green Valley Trail has excellent flow.


The scenery is wonderful, as you traverse a few different ravines and cross beautiful creeks.


There’s quite a bit of climbing, but it’s the slow, gradual kind. It never gets overly steep, even though the terrain is quite steep. The trails more or less follow the contours of the land, which makes for a great ride. And, long, gradual climbs also means you get long, flowing descents. It’s just a stunning trail.

We thought the trail had enough technical challenge to be interesting, but not so much that it was unridable. Pretty much the perfect balance, as far as I was concerned.

When we reached the end of the finished trail, we took a break.


Here you can see some of the yet-unfinished trail on the other side of the ravine. I love the way the trail skirts the edge of the ravine, and climbs gradually out of it.


Because the trail switches back a number of times, we were disoriented. Here, Dave is trying to figure out where the heck we were. There was a lake not too far away, which looked pretty interesting.


Since we had reached the end of the finished trail, we turned back and the ride back was even better. There was a climb that hit us pretty hard, though. Just as we were thinking we needed a break, the trail turned back downhill. Phew!


After we finished that trail, we rode back to the car. The ride back is a lot of fun, too. It was just a great day to be out on the trails, and I felt a sense that I wanted to go mountain biking again soon. It’s not every day you get to ride a brand new trail!

Unfortunately, once back at the car, I saw that I have another broken spoke. I think that makes four on this wheel. I think I’m going to need to replace my rear wheel. Ugh. I have no idea when I can afford to do that. I have a 29er and 29″ wheels are, of course, more expensive than their 26″ counterparts.

Here’s a map of our ride. The new trail is roughly from mile 4.2 to mile 10.2. So, it’s three miles of new trail, or a 6-mile round trip. I think when it’s done, it’s supposed to be about a 4-mile loop.

State of the bicycle commute

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Bicycles make a lot of sense on college campuses. There’s very little parking, and there are a lot of small paths where cars can’t go anyway. Plus, my wife and I share one car, and want to keep it that way. Using my bicycle for transportation helps facilitate that. In general, commuting by bicycle has been working very well.

That said, since I started school in January, I have changed my commuting strategy slightly. Before then, I was a very dedicated commuter. I commuted by bicycle every day, no matter what. Lately I’ve changed my stance a little bit. Oddly enough it wasn’t the cold, wind, snow or ice that made me change that. It was rain.

Frankly, I’ve never enjoyed commuting in the rain, but it’s worse when I’ll have to slog around campus all day. Sometimes I do enjoy rain on country rides, but in general, rain is one of my least favorite riding conditions.

Eventually I decided that I didn’t need the aggravation of commuting to class in the rain. And I have to say, giving up my stubborn, I-must-always-commute-by-bicycle attitude felt quite liberating. Now when it rains, I take the bus. And while on the bus, I read a book and listen to music. Then I have to walk a ways to get to class, but I don’t really mind walking in the rain, so long as I bring an umbrella. And again, I can listen to music while I walk and see more of the world around me as I go.

So, am I less dedicated to bicycle commuting now? Maybe. Bicycling is about different things to different people. For some people riding no matter what gives them a lot of pride. I’ve been there myself. But sometimes my bicycle commute had started to feel like a chore … and for me, riding is about fun. I’m glad to have some alternatives.

I still ride nearly all the time, but I don’t feel bad about taking the bus when I need or want to.

I had an interesting mishap last week. I had my hardest midterm Thursday morning. I got up earlier than usual to give myself plenty of time — in fact, ironically, I had just started writing this post about how well bicycle commuting is working. But, just as I was maybe 1/3 of the way to class, my chain broke! I called my wife, and asked her to look up the bus schedule (I was right by a stop). But the bus wouldn’t be coming for 45 minutes or so. I’d be too late for my midterm. Fortunately, Sarah was able to leave work for a while, pick me up, and take me to class.  I was only about 5 minutes late for my midterm. Whew!

I’m not sure what caused my chain to break, but I later bought a new one, and fixed it. Not without some frustration, of course. Sometimes I have trouble with even the most basic bicycle repair tasks.

The current state of things

Thursday, November 4th, 2010


I’m going back to school in January! After high school, I spent 2+ years at Northwestern University, and then dropped out (it’s a long story). I never finished the Computer Science degree I was pursuing, and I have always intended to go back to school. Well, I am finally going to do it! I got into the General Studies program at Indiana University, right here in town. I’m not sure yet what classes I’ll be taking, but I am looking forward to it. It will be strange to be a student again. I hope I am able to adapt reasonably well.

A couple of months ago, some ongoing contract work was cut way back. My budget has been severely scaled back ever since. And with school coming up, things are going to get tighter.


I’m gearing up for winter. It’s difficult with a small budget, but fortunately I already have most of the things I need. However, this winter will be different from last year. My commute is longer, and I will be riding to/from/all around campus, as well. I have decided to use the Trucker as my main winter bike.

Studded tires

I had a pair of studded tires already, but they’re for 26″ wheels, since I used an old mountain bike as my winter commuter previously. So, I knew I would need 700c studded tires. I lucked out and Doug (MnBicycleCommuter) had recently gotten a new set of studded tires, but still had the old ones around, with plenty of life left in them. He offered them to me at a good price. I couldn’t resist. Here is his post about shipping the tires on his Xtracycle. The tires arrived today (already!) and I’m looking forward to trying them out. I’ll need to install them on the Trucker soon to make sure there’s enough clearance under my fenders.

This leads me to wheels. I really wish I had an extra wheelset for the Trucker. This would allow me to keep both my slicks and studded tires mounted on a wheelset, and just swap out the wheels. I am not sure yet if this is going to be in the budget.


My lighting situation has been less than ideal for a few years. I have a few lights which have been adequate when combined, but again, with a longer commute, I’ll be spending more time riding in the dark. I knew I would need something better. Fortunately, my beautiful wife ordered me a light. It’s not here yet, but I am looking forward to testing it out. It’s going to blow my existing lights out of the water.

This light will also be useful for night rides on the road, mountain bike rides, etc. I can’t wait!

I’m also investing in some more reflective gear. In addition to a longer commute, I’m hoping to get more riding in this winter than ever before. That will mean a lot of riding at night, and I need to stay visible.

I’m not sure yet what else it will hold, but already I can see that 2011 is going to be a very interesting year!

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