Sunday, August 30, 2015

The spoiled cyclist and CountriBike

I dropped Fizz off at Thick yesterday and missed out on the 75 Mile Every Neighborhood Ride. Honestly, I wouldn't have made it, it's grueling, riddled with hills and it was gawdawful hot. I heard many riders dropped out well before the end.
So, today I was stuck with Ruby. I hadn't ridden this bike in over a year. I spent an evening filling her deflated tires, cleaning and greasing her up and equipping her with lights, cameras and such.

I rode Ruby down the the PedalPGH finish line to check things out. Before I reached the South Side, I wasn't pleased with the way Ruby rode, the geometry, the steering... I much preferred Fizz. I felt like I was using more energy to get up to a speed that wasn't much of an effort on Fizz. This didn't seem logical considering Ruby weighs less than Fizz. However, I appreciated that the gear shifting wasn't a battle.
Fizz was my smooth, creamy tank.... Ruby was rickety and awkward in comparison. Fizz had ruined me for all other bikes.

My ring and pinky fingers were numb after 6 miles. Yeesh. Already, I couldn't wait to get Fizz back from her overhaul. She needed new brake pads, the front wheel hub needed taken apart and cleaned as well as a new rear cassette and chain. I was seriously regretting putting off until later Marko's offer to show me how to do all that stuff myself.
While I was there, I indulged in my very first Franktuary hot dog. It had mustard, sauerkraut and fried onions. So very good.
I also stopped at the ORTC tent and bought a membership and this awesome t-shirt

After I got back on Ruby, I seemed to have acclimated to the bike a bit better. My fingers were still numb though. I was concerned I wouldn't be inclined to do as much commuting with this bike and would take the car more often.
Looking at the weather this week, I wasn't interested in riding a less-efficient bike up my hill in "Hot and Humid" every day. Yuck.

In the Penn Ave bike lane, I happened on CountriBike!

I also noticed a few new bike infra signs in the Strip.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Underwear and Overwear


I mentioned that Fizz's gearing was being grumpy this past week. I took her into Thick to have what I'd hoped to be a simple derailleur adjustment (my adjustments weren't having much effect) and Ethan came back with bad news: after just 2500 miles, I've chewed up the drive-train and bottom bracket so much that it needs replaced and she'll be in the shop for 2 and a half weeks. He gave her back to me with band-aid adjustments to use while I got Ruby road-ready. Marko diagnosed the cause of the early demise of my drive-train as cross-chaining. I really should pay closer attention to those gears. I'm using the gears as if they're there to be used!
Why do I have all these gear combinations if I shouldn't use a third of them? Bah!
If I knew it would cut the life of my drive-train in HALF, I would have been diligent in proper gear-shifting.

The Underwear Ride

I decided to try the Underwear Ride.

It was interesting: pasties, transparent underwear, jock straps... it all looked so uncomfortable to ride a bike in.... and yet... I enjoyed the eye-candy. I was told by a young lady that I shouldn't be wearing so many clothes. I wore my regular cycling clothes and just put a black negligee over everything. It counts! I'm shocked I took part in this ride. I'm told there were 300+ riders

Look of surprise! "Am I really going on an Undies Ride?"

I had 'jock strap guy' riding in front of me for some time. Rather distracting and amusing.

Afterwards, Yale, Marko and I left together and were scolded by the police for making a left turn at a light where the signal is weight triggered. Even with 500 pounds of cyclists and bikes, we can't trigger the light, so we treat it like a stop sign and proceed carefully. Policeman was just being a jag n'at.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Try-a-Bike, remorse, a basil thief and uncracked eggs

The 5th annual Try-a-Bike took place Sunday and this was my second time attending, I really enjoy this. Last year, I shied away from the recumbents and tandems, but this year I made sure I pestered someone to try a tandem with me, Joanne was my prey. It was much easier on this particular bike, it was a fixed-gear cruiser tandem. It seems that a geared tandem is more difficult to ride than the single-geared, from what I've heard. We switched places and each of us got a chance to both captain and stoke. I was totally stoked, man.
Then Marko, who wasn't crazy about the idea of hopping on a tandem, offered to captain me around the Oval. Whee!
The recumbents were lots of fun, I was only able to find one small enough for short people.

Marko took Fizz out for a spin and called her a Tank. It took me hours to console her.

Tricia likes the 'bents

A tandem with a double trailer!

Stu demonstrates the bus bike rack

Marko on a foldie

Marko on the Backwards Bike of Death
The recumbent selfie

One of my morning commutes this week, I nervously observed a man riding with a small child in a handlebar seat, he was not only edge-riding in the door zone, but weaving in and out of parked cars as well as filtering. I passed him the while taking the lane and the urge to tell him they were much safer out in the middle of the lane was overpowering, but I kept my mouth shut: the fear of an argument starting from friendly, constructive advice told me that their riding style was none of my business.
I'm still remorseful that I said nothing.
I tried to ride just a few yards ahead of or behind them for a few blocks to divert the cars around us and keep them from getting clipped, but I could only do that for so long.

Speaking of remorse: I'm fence-riding. Should I go out on the Underwear Ride this week? I feel this is a ride for the youngsters: they can stay up late and have few if any side effects the next day from staying up late. Am I going to resign myself to being old and needing to get to bed at a decent hour or am I going to stay out after dark? One of the advantages to being single is that I can do whatever I want without the negative opinions of a spouse who disproves of what he deems to be indecent behavior.

More fence-riding: All Neighborhoods Ride is coming up this weekend! This is 75 miles! Am I able to go all day and 75 miles? The most I've done in one day is 61 miles.... I think 75 would kill me and I'd have murderous leg cramps. Fizz is having difficulty getting into the small ring, I need to adjust the derailleur before I engage in a 75 mile ride up many, many hills. I need the granny gears.

The Basil Thief:
I pass by the Casino daily and they have an herb garden that I will occasionally steal a handful or two of herbs from. I like the rosemary for socca cakes. I steal fresh basil and oregano for Italian foods. They aren't growing oregano this year though, which makes me sad. The security people are out in force when I leave in the afternoons, so I have to do my herb picking in the morning. One of these days, the security people are going to hassle me for picking the herbs. It'll be worth it though: fresh herbs are to die for.
They make my bag smell wonderful too!

Many basil bushes!
My eggs: intact
Today's shopping trip: eggs, bread, raspberries and a glass jar of pickles. I was nervous that the eggs and glass would break and that the bread would get squished. The items I was worried about fared well, but the raspberries turned to mush. I don't understand why raspberries, even transported carefully in a car with shock absorbers, liquify on the trip. I'm glad had the foresight to place them inside a plastic bag to keep the juice from leaking all over the bike.

I used a bungee net to keep the bread from being flattened. I like the net, I need to keep that in my pannier full time.

I love this bungee net!

Scrambled perhaps... but unbroken

Racing up my hill

This was my first encounter with another cyclist going up my hill. She noticed me behind her at the end of the bridge and gave me a playful "You go girl!" as I passed her and I responded with a "Race ya!". Little did I know, I would end up making record time up the hill. I lost my QOM some time ago to a much faster cyclist, but I've been watching my times up the hill and I was able to shave 30 seconds off my best time. That's remarkable.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

BikeFest kickoff, Flock and taking the lane.

This Flock ride took us to the BikeFest kickoff party. I'd missed out on last year's party and was anxious to go, but this new venue was grungy and dilapidated in comparison with the venue in years past. There was also no Bike Beauty Pageant, no silent auctions either. The drinks were cheap and the food was a mediocre pizza, so I decided to pack it in early and head home because I'm not much for dancing and I'm a one-drink-girl.
Marko and Geoff were able to accompany me and show me a new way to get to the apt from Bloomfield. Awesome.

The route I take from work to home is fairly conflict-free when it comes to impatient motorists. The exception is a short, narrow bridge at 28th St with a blind bend at each end. you cannot see oncoming traffic at each of the bends, so passing is dangerous. I've learned to control the lane at each of the bends. I can ride to the right on the approach where there's enough room for cars to pass and I deliberately slow and allow the line of cars to pass where it's safe and then when they've passed, I move to the center of the lane around the bend to prevent any cars behind me from doing something stupid like trying to pass with oncoming cars around a blind turn.
Most of the time, I have luck and don't have cars right behind me the whole way, getting impatient while I ascend the hill. I'll also allow them to pass when it's safe to on the bridge. The video below is of a line of cars that got impatient with me.
Sorry for adding those 18 seconds to your trip!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Fizz's birthday, an underwear dilemma and the illegitimate bike messenger

Last week was Fizz's first birthday, we celebrated with a ride back and forth to work.

More things that I'm learning as a bike commuter:

Try a different way!
the route back home in the evening is gridlocked with cars and SUVs, the morning commute is a breeze in comparison! I needed to test another route. I've found that if I stuck to the trails and then hopped on Smallman, I had much better success. When the Strip trail opens back up (if EVER!) I'll be very happy to avoid all the stops signs on Smallman. I'm missing out on hitting the bike counters in the Penn Ave cycletrack, but I can't be bothered with the inconvenience.

Underwear and where to stash it.
Getting changed at work from bike shorts into normal skivvies and vice/versa has presented me with issues: I'm finding underwear.... days later... crammed into pockets of all of my panniers and bags. Ew.
I've now got a special 'knickers bag' that I've promised myself to use for this purpose. The cashier at the grocery store doesn't need to see me pull my wallet out of my pannier and with it, a pair of used drawers. Ain't nobody got time for that.
Also, in the interest of using as many different words for underwear as I can in this post: panties! bum floss! grundies! fanny firewalls!

Red, the Bike Messenger! ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED!
Earlier this month, (when a co-worker who normally has this task was on vacation) I was asked by my employer to get our checks signed by a board member who works downtown. "Could you run over to his office on the bike?" they asked!
They asked again this morning. I think I might be the semi-regular bike messenger for the office. Sweet.

I was also mistaken for a legitimate messenger by a man in the elevator ride up to my destination. The female bike messenger (let alone one in her 40's!) is a rare creature in Pittsburgh, so to be mistaken for an actual, professional messenger delights me to no end.

Elevator conversation
"Did you ride here to work or....."
No, just making a delivery.
"Ah, I remember the old Triangle messengers, those guys were nuts!"
Yeah, they're my age by now and pretty beat up: broken bones, missing teeth... I'd like to keep my teeth, thanks.

(in looking online for Triangle Bike Messenger images, I discovered that a friend's spouse was a TBM back in the day! Here he is before his bearded and tattooed days.)

The receptionist at his office has asked me both times if she needed to sign for a delivery. Ha! "No, I have an appointment with Sam."

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Over-doing it with the groceries, not.

I was running low on food, I'm feeling out my grocery options: I have Whole Foods, Market District and Aldi in Shadyside/East Liberty, but I also have an Aldi and a Giant Eagle on the South Side. Yesterday I'd stopped at Marty's Market in the Strip after work and found afordable options limited.

I'd try and grab a few things at Aldi on the south side after work today rather than brave Shadyside where I'm not as familiar with the streets.

On the way there, I noticed a young man who was in dire need of medical attention: he was lying on the trail and his phone was on the ground next to him. I saw cyclists and joggers pass right past him, not even glancing at him. I and another cyclist stopped to get him off the trail and wait with him while an ambulance arrived, I spent a while on the phone with the 911 dispatcher and it seems he had been reportedly walking in the traffic along Second avenue earlier, and I feared he'd try and walk out into traffic again.

 While we waited, he became aware of us and slightly more lucid. Then he tried to walk out on to Second ave! The cyclist in green tried to stop him, but he became combative and deftly avoided his attempt to keep him from danger. I walked out onto Second ave and alerted oncoming cars that he was coming, he ran out, but thankfully he stayed on the sidewalk.

The police arrived shortly after that, driving on the trail and I let the officer know the direction he'd gone.

Eventually, I made it to Aldi, locked up and over-shopped. Cheese! Almond milk! Yogurt! Butter! So many things that might not fare so well in a black pannier on an 80 degree day. Produce too! Blueberries, cukes and zukes, tomatoes, lemons, carrots, you name it, it looked good and it went into the cart. It was disappointing not to find popping corn though. I like popcorn and I'm running low.

I manged to fit it all on the back of the bike and Fizz's heavy ass end made for a wobbly mount.

I trudged up through Oakland over to Polish Hill and made it back before my butter melted. Mission Accomplished. No problem.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

First commuting lessons learned

#1: keep a supply of your easily-wrinkled dress shirts/skirts on hangers at the office. It's not a good idea to fold up your work clothes and cram them into a pannier. Also: shoes! Keep a pair at work so you aren't stuck wearing your cycling shoes in a staff meeting.

  • #1.1 Keep rain gear at both work AND home in case the weather changes during the course of the day!

B: don't forget stuff! I'm still adapting to an entirely new routine after I flipped my life upside-down and I'm forgetting stuff on a daily basis; one day it was eye-protection, today it was work clothes AND my lunch. Thankfully, I keep emergency food and clothes at the office.

III: greet your fellow commuters! It's how things are done around here! Penn Ave is the main artery into town from the East, I'm trying to make a habit of greeting all those who pass me. I learned long ago by just taking trips to shop in the Strip that the morning bike commuters call out a "Good Morning!" to one another. My commuting enthusiasm has diminished to a normal level since that first day and I get Cat6'ed regularly. It's funny how having a bike underneath you creates a friendly atmosphere. I wonder if the Jail Trail commuters operate with the same cheery comradery?

The apartment is shaping up:

Just a few necessary provisions

Living room bike rack!

The doors of the apartment building have strong self-closing hydraulics installed. I disengaged the device on the door to my apartment because it would close and smash the bike (or me) as I was trying to bring the bike (or moving boxes) in or out of the apartment. So very frustrating!
I couldn't very well disengage the one on the door in the common area, so finding something to prop the door open while I brought the bike through was necessary. A kind, generous soul who's handy with a tool or two saw to it that I got a set of doorstops and even painted them to match the bike.
He wins the award for best housewarming gift-giver ever.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

My first commute (thou shalt not Cat6 me)

My first commute to work was today. I tried my best to prepare the night before, packing non-wrinkling clothes, making sure my lunch wouldn't leak all over my panniers. I woke up earlier than needed, like a kid on Christmas morning excited to play with new toys.

I knew full well I'd grow tired quickly of the extra work and planning involved with bringing extra clothes. I left early and hoped to stop in the strip for some produce. You know you're too early when even the shops of the Strip aren't open yet.

When I hit the bike lane, I looked in my rearview mirror, I saw 2 cyclists behind me. Filled with the excitement of this new aspect of cycling,  I looked down to see I was cranking out 15 MPH, which is fast for me. Wow, I amped it up to 17 and they were still right behind me and all three of us were getting green light after green light.

"I'm going to pass her..."
Oh, no... you're not.

On the way back home, I stopped to take some shots of this new interactive installation at the Science Center. You can spin the whole thing to get it to twist back and forth. It reminded me of a DNA strand.

The trip home involves going back up Polish Hill. I kept telling myself that this hill will get easier each time I climb it. I fear what it will be like when it's icy.

Monday, August 3, 2015

A much-needed Wet Steep SlowRoll

After spending the weekend moving boxes and unpacking and getting very little sleep on what was one of the most stressful times of my life, I was exhausted, suffering from back spasms and leg cramps and generally depressed.
I sorely needed to get away from the cardboard boxes and the chaos. A bike ride was a prescription. SlowRoll was this evening!

I rode from Polish Hill down to the building where I work because I'd left my headlamps there as well as my padded gloves. This was also a test-run for a work commute, it took roughly 25 minutes.

Before I left, the radar looked good, storms had left the area but as soon as I arrived at Market Square, it began pouring intermittently while the sun shined brightly. I didn't care that my hair was getting wet, I felt bedraggled and grungy from moving boxes.

It felt so good to be on the bike after an entire week neglecting Fizz.

I'd not thought to map out the best way to return to Polish Hill from Squirrel Hill, but Marko and Ray helped get me back home via Ellsworth and Melwood and kept me off the main arteries where I might have found myself using otherwise.

I made the mistake of thinking I could ride up Hancock Street. It's the only hill I've attempted that I simply couldn't tackle. I managed to stay upright when I began to roll backwards and then I just watched in awe as Marko pedaled effortlessly past me and to the top of Hancock.

I'm still unaccustomed to not having a curfew. I could stay out as late as I wanted.