Saturday, November 29, 2014

Dirty Dozen spectating

Pittsburgh: land of hills n'at

Today was the Dirty Dozen: a race that hits 13 of the most gnarly hills in the Burgh. We've got some serious hills here; one of which is the steepest in the world.

I camped out on a picturesque spot on the Smithfield Street bridge and waited. I saw Su riding below the bridge and I was able to call her so we could meet later. I tried yelling down to her to get her attention, but I have a volume issue. I can only yell loudly when my life is in danger.

I got some nice shots, almost 300 in fact. There are around 300 riders, so that sounds about right.

I cannot imagine doing 2 of these hills in one day and not feeling serious repercussions, let alone 13. These folks have some legs. Wow.

Then Su and I were able to meet, she'd lost her pannier and needed an extra pair of eyes to look for it when backtracking. That sense of loss, that "Who has my stuff?" feeling: I hate it. I keep my wallet and keys in my pannier frequently, for me to lose that would be disastrous.
I still hoping some kind soul will Craigslist it.

When I got back to base, I wanted to check on the progress of the bike storage area. This is what I found:

They're building a room.... inside the room?

Ruby's virtually impossible to get out of the corner they put her in.

Maybe they're just using the bike storage area to build some outdoor (the slanted roof is my clue) storage shed? I can't wait for the construction to be finished and the bike abuse to stop.

Friday, November 28, 2014

You need a sense of humor when everyone is trying to kill you

On Wednesday, the office was blessed with a half day... this meant I could spend the rest of the day on the bike. Never mind that I had arrived at 5:30 to get all the work I needed to get done out of the way before the holiday weekend started, I wouldn't be too tired to bike or put off by the rain/snow mix!

I discovered that the Taco Truck was parking in the Strip today and my taco cravings started well before I made it over there. I found the truck and tried a plain cheddar/jack taco. So is the perfect size for me. I want to try all the exotic tacos they make.
I felt taco remorse when I saw that butternut/vegan taco.
Then this happened on the way back:

I've got two headlamps going and I'm in hi-viz. Why do you pull out in front of me?

Wandered about the city, met hubby for dinner on the South Side and returned in the dark.

I got a chance to use my new saddle cover

The tree at Point State park is a beacon. So's the bike.


Thursday was Thanksgiving and I didn't ride. I made sure I ate enough that burning calories the next day was necessary.


Friday is... the day after Thanksgiving when I believe that this is the earliest that Christmas decorations should be put up.
On went the antlers:

Fun fact: reindeer/caribou are the only species of cervids where both the male and female sport antlers. 
Mother Nature's cool with my antlers.

Friday is also Black Friday. The only shopping I did was at Thick when I took Fizz in to have the saddle looked and and have my brake rotors cleaned... they were squeaky/squeally since Wednesday.
Eric explained why the saddle kept creeping back and I was happy with the results.

I stopped for lunch afterwards at the Pub Chip Shop where they had a turkey meal with deep-fried balls of stuffing. Whoa. I'd never heard of such a thing and they sold me on it immediately. Amazingly good.

I then headed to the Strip for a caffeinated beverage and poke around. I walked into the shoppe with my helmet still on and overheard a man say to his friend: "Now, that's a woman with a sense of humor."
I won't disagree.
I got many shout outs and comments on the antlers from passers by all day long.

As I walked out with my latte, there appeared to be a police chase taking place. Officers running on foot, unmarked cars with lights and several other vehicles were all converging on someone.
I decided to wait until the speeding vehicles subsided before hopping back on the bike.

I had a pleasant conversation with a ClassyCab operator wearing a Santa hat who liked the antlers.

Then, a few blocks I'm waiting behind a truck at a light I'm noticing:
  • West Virginia/Nascar plates
  • Pickup Truck
  • Antler/dead deer decals all over the truck.
My thoughts are: "This is NOT a truck I want to be in front while I'm wearing antlers"
I laughed to myself and was glad I was behind this potential Hillbilly deer-killer menace.

Then things went horribly awry.

  • Salty language.
  • My I'm going to die! yell.

I spent the afternoon and evening wondering how I could have avoided that and blaming myself a great deal too.
I'm thankful the driver had the window down and could hear me screaming, otherwise I would have been a news item.
And there's my Thanksgiving tie in: I'm thankful to be breathing at this moment.

Yes, BikeSnobNYC... this is so true.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Light-Up Night, first fall on Fizz and Bike Dancer

On Friday, Su, Marko and I had made plans to do a group ride organized through 'Meetup' for Light-Up night. I'd been getting Pittsburgh Cyclist Meetup emails for over a year now and had never taken part in one of the rides. I think we all had a 'let's see what this is all about' attitude towards a Meetup ride. Flock rides were on hiatus for a few months (booooo!), so we were looking for an alternative.

The 3 of us rode down to Dippy (the normal Flock starting point) to make sure that if there was anyone who didn't get the memo about the hiatus, we could let them know and possible coerce them into riding with us. Nobody showed, but I had a chance to cool down, I wore too many layers for a 20 degree night. I didn't take into account just how warm 2 layers of wool, a jersey and a jacket are. I need to re-learn all over again the perfect layering for certain temperatures. I think I was dressing for 5 degrees.

Dippy needs a scarf when it's 20 degrees

We wait for no one! Literally.
No one showed so we headed down to First Ave, there we met Gary, the organizer and Mikhail was already there.
We rode down to REI and they had cookies and hot chocolate for us, which was quite nice. Then, we headed down to Station Square, but some of the group took the 'official' detour around the gravel company, while I took the shortcut. I waited at Station Square, walked my bike through a crowd of people and was told I should "Bike somewhere else!" by an passer-by. What the hell, you're blocking a bike trail and you give someone grief for walking a bike through? Whatever.
I thought by now those who had taken the detour would catch up with me. I pedaled sloooooowly. No one was catching up with me. Had they stopped at a bar there? Should I go back? I'd not heard a call come in from Su who was wondering where I was, I texted her as I'd arrived at Point State park convinced I'd lost them to a bar. Then, the group pulled in right behind me. Whew.

I snapped a few shots of an extra bright Downtown as I waited.

As we left the park and headed over to the North Shore, a woman in our group was yelling at pedestrians: "BIKES! COMING THROUGH!" We were mortified. A bike bell or a "On your left!" in a normal volume will suffice, lady! You don't need to frighten children with the militant barking!

She reminded me of this guy:

I didn't want to be associated with her and Marko and Su felt the same way so we parted ways with the group and Marko was kind enough to escort the both of us back to our cars.
Our toes were frozen by now and I let Marko thaw out at the building. He gave me a pair of his soon-to-be-patented handmade helmet ear warmers! Woot!
Yes! Warm ears are a good thing.
On Saturday, I'd planed on riding, but a wicked case of black ice broke out all over Pittsburgh. I'm glad I slept in and got the dire news as I was getting ready to go.
Sunday was glorious: it reached 60 degrees!

In the past week, I'd been experimenting with the iron-on reflective tape I'd found at a fabric store. I put some on my super-warm winter boots:
 ...and on one of my neck gaiters as well:

I also ironed onto one of my panniers the Surly patches and a strip of reflective tape:
I also have a reflector zip-tied to it.

I have a problem with my saddle. It slides back on the rails. Today, I decided to use some electrical tape to perhaps keep the saddle from sliding back. I think it's working, at the end of today's ride it was still in the same position.

I also might have a bike bag addiction. This is a cry for help.

I found another piece of cubism paper art glued to a wall along the trail:

I've decided I LOVE the new Dero pump down at the Bastille. So convenient.

Also, the valve is magnetic and it sticks to the pump!

I got tailgated by another cyclist on the Fort Pitt bridge (this sidewalk is so narrow, passing is difficult and I yield to climbing cyclists and all pedestrians here).

The first fall on Fizz: while going a snail's pace and trying to make up my mind which way to go on the trail at an intersection, I turned the front wheel too hard to port and fell on the starboard side. I got my legs all tangled up in the pedals, bruised both shins pretty badly and landed on my right elbow. Good thing nobody saw me make an ass of myself! Doh. I heard a clatter and saw plastic pieces strewn under us. Cripes, I'd busted something on Fizz! I checked her over carefully and couldn't figure out where these parts broke off from.

I think they were just there on the sidewalk before we fell.
I wandered down to the Waterfront and only had one bit of rudeness: an impatient driver beeps at me, annoyed that they have to change lanes to get ahead of me. You can almost see at the end of this video a car get t-boned by performing a Pittsburgh Left very poorly. I wondered what all the angry beeping was back there and the video showed me later what all the fuss was. Sometimes, they aren't actually beeping at *me*.

 Found some graffiti that pertains to me and my brightly colored brethren.

Fixed it for you.

Got hungry and stopped on the South Side.

Seitan wings!

On the way back into town, there was a guy ahead of me *dancing on his bike*. He had music in his headphones blaring and he was air-guitaring, gesticulating and singing along to his tunes... oblivious that I wanted to pass. I didn't see him touching the handlebars very much! I just hung back and just enjoyed the show rather than try and pass and have him crash into me.
Then I admired the bit of trackstanding another cyclist was doing waiting at at a light with me downtown. I wish I could trackstand.

21 miles on Friday and 28 miles today. I might make 4000 miles yet!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Back on the bike: and getting paid to do it.

I felt I'd given the knee sufficient rest for the past 3 days and wanted to ride yesterday. In the evening my employer had it's Annual Meeting (it's a boring non-profit thing: speaker, voting in new board members) and it was taking place this year over at Station Square: just a few miles away. This was bike-able! I'd planned on riding there and back instead of driving, paying for parking and charging my employer for mileage. I wore some bike-to-work clothes with a pair of super thick wool leggings. It was going to be in the 20s. Brrr.

I went out on my lunch hour and tried to see if I could squeeze past the PennDot sign on the Fort Pitt bridge. The bottom bars have been bent back to let pedestrians through, but I can't cram Fizz through there. I'm tempted to go at it with a wrench to remove the bottom bar.

It was rather cold, and not many people out. The first cyclist I encountered gave me a nod. Oh, yes! The 'Hey there, fellow cold-weather cyclist!' nod! I remember those! In the summer, there's so many people on bikes that saying hello to and nodding at every passing cyclist is a chore, I don't do it. But, it's 19 degrees: everyone on a bike in these temperatures deserves some "Dang, you're badass too." props in the form of The Nod.

I heard there was a new Dero Fix-it station down by the Bastille/Alcosan and I love the air pumps with PSI gauges, so I rode down there to get some air in the back tire. Thanks, Alcosan!

I love a firm back tire.
The gauge is a little difficult to read. 

Su stopped by the office in the afternoon with her new Phattie. So jealous. That is a nice machine.

Then, an emergency! We needed door prize tickets for the meeting tonight! The only place that sells them is in the Strip, no one wanted to drive over there and hunt/pay for parking for this $6 item. The parking might have cost almost as much as the item.
"Hey, send Speegs on her bike!"
Muhahahaha! My plan is working! They're sending me on errands on the bike!

I've Jedi-Mind-Tricked them into thinking any task that requires difficult parking should be performed by the resident cyclist.

So, off I went to the Strip to find this roll of tickets.

Mission accomplished.
I knew I'd be returning late in the evening and in the dark, I brought all the lights and the pink vest.
I had the misfortune of passing through the intersection where two pedestrians were injured and killed less than 8 hours prior. There were fresh spray paint markings on the ground where the incident occurred. I'm at that corner frequently early in the morning. It brought levity to my commute.

Parking at this hotel was difficult: no racks anywhere.

I locked to a bench in front of the hotel lobby and made it known to the staff that I was forced to do this due to lack of parking. Pretty odd for a hotel right at the end of the GAP.

My travels were peaceful and serene. The cars played nicely with me. It didn't rain on me. Yesterday was a good day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

More reflector ramblings and reaching 4000

After my trip to Free Ride to get some amber reflectors and adding reflectors to my rear basket, I began to wonder: are some reflectors better than others? Some of the reflectors in the bin I was rummaging in were fairly old. Had standards changed over the years? My impetus for seeking out amber reflectors was that Pennsylvania law *requires* amber side reflectors (in addition to a red rear reflector, amber pedal reflectors and a white front reflector) and Fizz came to me only with white side (spoke) reflectors and amber pedal reflectors. Fizz was lacking, technically. Between the headlamps and rear LED lights and ANSI class reflective tape I'm donning I really doubt anyone will say the bike and I aren't lit up like a Christmas tree on acid.

I'd found beveled reflectors in that bin: were these better seen from several angles by motorists approaching from different directions? Should I have both beveled reflectors AND flat reflectors? I started Googling for answers and more info. I got more than I bargained for.
Well, I'd learned there are SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) reflectors and CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) reflectors. There were bicycle reflectors and reflectors for motor vehicles.

The standards for reflex-reflectors have changed several times over the years since the SAE first introduced guidelines:
Cycling experts debate the merits of reflectors in general:
Then, a bit more Googling while I was looking for images of different applications of reflectors on bikes and bicycle accessories led me to cycling blogs and their thoughts and applications of SAE reflectors. I found it amusing that I'd already had these two bloggers in my blogroll and John of OneSpeedGo had suggested an automotive parts supply store to find SAE reflectors on my last post about my search for amber reflectors.

So, now my head was spinning from all this information, yet... I found it all very fascinating. I'm still learning from seasoned cyclists.

I did as John suggested and found an inexpensive 4-pack of SAE amber and red oblong reflectors at an Advance Auto Parts store.

I also wanted the reflectors on each side of the basket to match. I had a beveled reflector on each side of the basket, but one was white and the other amber. My obsession with symmetry wouldn't allow that for very long. I used the amber reflectors on the basket and now I have two red oblong reflectors... where can I use them?
I think I can bolt them to a pannier!

It lights up very well when hit straight on from the light source.

But, when the light source hits it from the side, not so well.

The beveled reflector seems to light (at least, in part) up no matter where the light source hits it.
 Yes, I know I'm not hitting the reflectors from several hundred feet away. I'm considering taking the bike out into the dark parking lot and simulating road conditions with the headlamp from my car. However, that would entail being alone... in a dark parking lot near a trail where drug users and homeless people travel. Maybe not.

The grey reflective tape seems to be a winner though!

The good news it that, being a total spaz about visibility and employing several different types of both passive lighting and dynamic (LEDs) lighting will net the Christmas Tree on Acid effect. Motorists see me. I like this.

Reaching 4000 Miles

There are 41 days left in the year. I have 361 miles left to ride in those days in order to hit a magical number: 4000.

Dear knee and weather: please work with me here.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Memorial Bike RIde

Because of my knee, I thought it best to sideline myself and photo-document today's Memorial Bike Ride and Ghost Bike dedication for a recent cyclist fatality: Taylor Banks. It's been 17 days since he was hit by a motorist who fled the scene, rendering no aid to the man they struck and left to die in the road. Still no word on who did it and if charges will be filed.

Vannevar did a fantastic job organizing the ride. I can't say enough about how wonderfully things went and how much it meant to the family.

I arrived at the start point hoping to scope out a spot where I could get shots of the cyclists leaving from Monaca and heading over to Aliquippa where the ghost bike would be installed and the memorial.

I said my hellos to my brethren cyclists who were unloading their bikes off their cars or coming from the long ride up from Pittsburgh.
There were motorcyclists, two Monaca police vehicles and a Monaca fire truck all with lights going to escort the cyclists to the memorial. This was a sight to behold.

Before I took my position, I was approached my the decedent's mother and she introduced herself to me, assuming that because I had a camera around my neck that I was from the media. I asked her if she had met the event's organizer yet and directed her to Vannevar's location and pointed out which of the bright-colored-clothing-wearing folks he was. She went right over to him and hugged him, which caused me to well up a bit. I managed to get a shot of this poignant moment.

I went up to a vantage point on a hill not far from the start point and waited for the procession.

The Beaver County Times photographer got this shot and I can be seen standing on the sidewalk getting photos of the cyclists approaching.

Here's some of my photos:

After the group left, I got in the car and followed the procession down to the ghost bike dedication. The Monaca police handed off escort duties to the Aliquippa police at the border between the two towns. Neither police escorts would let motorists pass, which I was surprised by. I sensed a bit of impatience in the group of 30 or so motorists I was with behind the procession. I think the police lights kept them from honking.

The memorial was very nice and touching.

Rusty walked the ghost bike up to it's location with two family members.

I found another nice vantage point for photos as the group left to return to the starting point in Monaca.

All of the photos can be seen over at Flickr.
There were several media outlets represented there, WPXI and WTAE as well as the Beaver County Times and a few other photographers. Very nice to see them out.