rule one of bicycle commuting

ted | bike | Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

In military terms, they refer to it as “hardening” a vehicle, but you need to face the fact that if you’ve got one bicycle that is your commuter, you gotta take some preventive measures or you’re eventually gonna be stuck on the side of the road with a mechanical failure.

Yesterday, I got all suited up for the rain, ready to tackle my ride in, absolutely fuckin pumped to do a bit of pushing pedals in a cold morning’s rain. Got out to the garage and my folder had a flat rear tire – not as in “this tire still holds air but it is slightly low”, but more like “this tire is entirely devoid of internal pressure of any sort and could very well collapse in on itself to create a black hole”. No amount of pumping with Big Blue would persuade it to keep air inside. Damnit. I had to drive.

In retrospect, it was probably about damn time I got a flat. When you ride on the right shoulder of the road, you’re keenly aware of all the flotsam & jetsam that migrates its way into your path – broken glass of all sorts, beer bottles, lone shoes, bits of gravel, metal chips, bumpers from a rear-ended 1998 Taurus, self tapping sheet metal screws, more glass, sand, sharpened bolts, half-broken beer bottles, barbed wire, roadkill and that drunk guy from down the street lying in a pile of broken glass.

In other words, a whole bunch of shit that’s awful to ride on.

The first line of failure, IMHO, is your tires. Everything else can be dealt with, more or less, but you gotta protect your tires. I swung by Performance Bike, since my Local Bike Shop doesn’t stay open late enough for me to swing by after work, and picked up a set of tire liners, two new innertubes and innertube sealant.

Took off the old tire, patched the tire from the inside to act as a boot. Slid in the Slime-branded tire liners (they also had Kevlar™ tire liners at 4x the price), put in the new innertubes and reassambled, a quick ride around the back to make sure I didn’t have a pinch flat, then remove the valve cores, pour in the innertube sealant, reassemble, pump up to 70 psi and spin like crazy. I also went back and patched the old innertube to give me a spare, should I need it.

So by all accounts, I should be done with flats. I still avoid all the glass I can see – I like the knowing that I’ve got some extra levels of protection against all the nasty things I have to ride through on a daily basis. Like Hunter Thompson said, “Call on God, but row away from the rocks.”

you put that asphalt back where you found it

ted | bike | Monday, October 16th, 2006


Le sigh. Well it isn’t actually my street, you know, the street right out front of your house, but it is two streets that I use frequently. Marquette Road (aka 67th St) has been ripped up for a whole mile from Damen to California. California itself has been ripped up from 63rd to 67th and possibly even further!

Hey Chicago Dep’t of Transportation – you know those machines you use to rip up asphalt? Believe it or don’t they also make machines that go right behind them and lays down fresh asphalt. That’s right, just as quick as you rip it up, you can lay it down. Hell, throw in a couple steamrollers and a striping crew and you can probably do a couple miles a day! Seriously guys, y’all do a great job with bicycle paths and stuff – one of the main reasons why I use 67th – but goddamnit don’t leave roads ripped up like this!

I have since found a different way to/from work, but it’s not as fast or easy as my normal 67th all the way to the Dan Ryan route. I’m probably back up into the 20 minute range, which ain’t so bad considering all the cigarettes or beers consumed over the weekend or the craaaazy route I gotta take on side streets and whatnot.

Also let me explain that just because some dork with a meteorology degree from Life University says that the computer told him it might rain does not mean that it will. Also even though I trust the National Weather Service’s forecast moreso than any third-party reseller (this means you, Andy Avalos & Tom Skilling), a “90% probability of precipitation” does not mean “it’s gonna rain in the 20 minutes it takes you to get over to the Interstate to meet Kevin”. It’s the overall regional forecast, not the Chicago Ted Morning Bike Ride forecast. Open the door, see what it’s really like out there before making a decision. And when you do, don’t be a pussy about it. Just get on the damn bike and go.

rule zero of bicycle commuting

ted | bike | Wednesday, October 11th, 2006


It rained last night so the streets were still pretty wet this morning. They’ve torn up an entire mile of my ride – California all the way to Damen – and there was more rain forecast for today. Hmmm, wet streets plus torn up street plus more rain on the way? Maybe I’m better off not riding.

Wrong. WRONG.

It didn’t rain any more today to speak of. My folder has full fenders, anway. So what did I do? I rode the bus. In theory I have no problem with the bus. In practice, well, it fucking sucks. They’re rarely on time and the one today smelled like somebody puked Wild Irish Rose all over it and the windows seemed to be covered in some sticky substance from the inside. The reality of the situation is that I hate the fuckin’ bus.

So much so that I walked the 4 miles home. Probably got at least one blister from my practical but steel toed shoes – fine for sitting at a desk, standing around the shop or crawling all about a railcar but not so good for walking.

Bought a lottery ticket on the way. If I win the 45 million this Friday the 13th, I’m putting in a roof full of solar panels, a wind turbine and a Listeroid generator setup fueled by B100, WVO and waste oil. Plus crafting a lifestyle where I don’t have to drive anywhere unless I want to. With no job, you ain’t got to commute, dig?

I can’t think of anything I’d rather do on a daily basis than ride my bicycle around.

for those of you who think it’s funny to yell shit at the guy on a bike

ted | bike | Tuesday, October 10th, 2006

You might notice that you’re standing around waiting for the bus and I’m on my way home.

I noticed that I passed the bus you’re waiting for ten minutes ago. Your bus didn’t pass me.

I didn’t have to pay $2 to ride home or sit in a trash-strewn stained seat next to Booze Sweat Jackson.

Maybe think about that the next time you feel like yelling something witty, jerkass.

Having ridden past you a hundred times, I know you won’t think about it.

Have a nice day.

how to get noticed

ted | bike | Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

Blinky lights are awesome – I wish I had more of them. The more annoying, the better they’re doing their job. LEDs last forever, put out huge amounts of light, use tiny amounts of electricity and their narrower beamwidth vs incandescent lights means you can really get them aimed nicely.

But how do you get noticed when somebody isn’t looking at you? Simple – imitate the police. You know that WHOOP WHOOP that cop car sirens usually do right before the wail? You do that as loud as you possibly can. Yes, with your mouth. Just like KRS-1. LOUD. Now go buy me a copy of Return of the Boombap.

Start using that and you’ll get looked at funny, but at least you’ll get looked at by the person brazenly swinging their car door open instead of being looked at by an ER surgeon.


ted | bike | Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

There was a lovely rain on my bike ride home from work today. Back in the heady days of living in Hotlanta and riding 3 miles to the MARTA station, half a mile to work then the 12 miles home, people asked me all sorts of stupid questions, like

“What do you do when it rains?”

Get wet.

The rain is not the part you should fear, in fact, that’s the least of your worries. Think about it – rain is nice fresh clear water falling from the sky. It’s fairly refreshing and quite fun. Give it a shot.

The part that sucks is the oil, grit and rancid BBQ sauce that’s been stewing in the curb gutter for a month of Sundays in the hot, hot sun is now part of a deep quagmire that you gotta ride through. It’s the shit coming up from the road, not the stuff coming down from the sky that’s the worst.

Besides the obvious stuff, like the first half hour of a rainstorm being the most dangerous since the oil hasn’t been washed away yet and street plates/paint stripes are dangerously slick for the duration and that a bicycle without full coverage fenders is worthless, the next worse part is that people in cars – normally blissfully unaware of your existance, much less your status as a legal vehicle – have an even harder time seeing you. Get a bunch of annoying blinky LED lights on your bike. Aim them so they will get in the eyes of people in front, behind and to your sides. If they get annoyed by them, you’ve done your job.

Put all your stuff – keys wallet phone smokes lighter change knife etc – in your bag. I like Timbuk2 bags – they’re bombproof, waterproof and stylish. Never had a bad experience with one, except when the two I used to have got stolen.

All in all, riding home in a pounding-ass rainstorm is pretty nice experience and is usually a whole lot of fun. I sure as shit enjoyed myself on my ride home this evening.

Another productive weekend

ted | bike | Sunday, June 4th, 2006

I can tell, because my ass hurts.

No, not like that, you preverts. Saturday my special lady and I partook of a leisurely 25 mile bike ride. Me on my steamroller – my singlespeed Gary Fisher Tassajara frame with a Surly 1×1 cro-moly steel fork – and Nikki on the $20 Raleigh Sportif road bike I picked up at a thrift store. Another Jackson for new tubes, tires, water bottle cage, a quick 15 minute tuneup and it was ready to roll. All the construction on Archer made us take a slightly out of the way route, but fine less-used neighborhood streets always make for a relaxing ride. Some light weightlifting at the fancy new UIC fitness center and a more direct ride home was an awfully nice way to spend a couple hours on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

I spent a good half hour trying to get my motorcycle to start, despite topping up the battery and slapping it on a charger overnight. After winding myself trying to roll the damn thing off, I finally just jumped it from the Golf and it started right up. After letting it idle for a while and some mild smoking from the bits of grease and oil what had leaked onto the exhaust system, I started taking it around the block five or six times, progressively faster. It’s running suprisingly well. I hope I can get the idle wonkiness worked out with some tuning of the idle air mix for the four carbs and running a couple tankfuls of gas through it. It’d be nice to have it for running around town or actually ride it to work on secondary roads. Also been thinking of selling it and getting a scooter for around town stuff, since they’re cheaper to run than a motorcycle and if under 50ccs, you don’t have to have a M-class license (which I have, but my wife does not). Not to mention arguably safer and more practical than a 1982 Suzuki GS550 for city use.

Today was spent doing the typical Sunday stuff, sleeping late, drinking coffee, working out the menu for the coming week, grocery shopping, etc. Finally found an oil sprayer so we don’t have to keep getting those damn cans of pan lubricant and also picked up a few other niceties for the kitchen.

Yeah, hell yeah I’m domestic.

You wanna know how much? Here’s a short list:

  • Put up a clothesline in the back yard
  • Construct some manner of fabric sun shade for the deck
  • Install some pleasant lighting for deck use
  • Make a top for the outdoor bar Mike and Linda gave us
  • Compost bin

You get the picture.

rollin rollin rollin

ted | bike | Wednesday, June 1st, 2005

Memorial Day weekend caught me a bit off guard, not in the OH HEY IT’S A 3 DAY WEEKEND WOOOOO KEGGER sense but more in the WHOA I CAN GET A LOT MORE DONE IF I DON’T HAVE TO GO TO WORK ON MONDAY sense. A fine line, true, but one i’m walking. So what /did/ i get done? GENTLEMEN! A LIST:

  • drank beer
  • worked on bicycles
  • cleaned up the house
  • sleeped late
  • drank beer
  • went to the bike store for parts
  • drank beer
  • lied about in the sun
  • drank beer
  • grilled meat, drank beer
  • cooked bacon, drank beer
  • drank beer

god, it was beautiful.

I affixed rear racks to both my lady’s velocipede and mine. The steamroller project is almost done, praise jeebus. It now lacks a seatpost & rear hub that doesn’t slip and god damn if that piece won’t be rideable again. Looking forward to it as well as my next project: a fixed gear. That steel road bike frame my brother gave me ain’t gonna build itself. Still drooling over a Surly 1×1 frame. If you’re lookin to buy me one, i’ll take an extra large frame in Johnny Cash black. I’m gettin a year older in August and hitched in September, so act fast. Ted needs more bikes.

Been especially diggin on the prospect of winter riding but unfortunately all i’ve got right now is 4 months of beautiful weather to deal with. Selah.

Also, Chicagorillas, bicycles are now allowed on Metra (sort of). This is huge, so go ride. Take Metra somewhere. Be nice. Help build bicycle goodwill on public transportation. As far as road goodwill goes… well, better to assert your rights than take it deep just to make friends on the road. Enough for now. Gotta look busy for another 45 minutes so’s i can go home and enjoy a ride. Damn bikes ain’t gonna ride themselves.

bicycles a-go-go

ted | bike | Sunday, May 8th, 2005

I bought The Girl a bike Friday afternoon, so now we can go on rides. She on her 2004 Giant Cypress, me on my late 1970s Raleigh Grand Prix. The phone auction went well, and i’ve funneled the profits from that into parts for my steamroller – a project bike built up from the remnants of my 2001 Gary Fisher Tassajara. It was stolen off David and Chris‘ front porch back in the heady summer of 2002. By some odd twist of fate, i wound up getting the frame back. Some guy saw it laying in a ditch and picked it up. It still had the Georgia Tech Police Department registration sticker on it, so he called them and they emailed me. Every single component on it was wrecked. EVERYTHING. I hauled that frame around for a couple years. Fast forward to 2005.

It’s getting a rigid cromoly steel fork and a singlespeed conversion kit, both from fleabay. All i need to do now is strip, clean, prime & paint the frame (going from its 2001 Gary Fisher Tassajara regalia to Johnny Cash black), then get a bottom bracket, front chainring, pedals, brake cable (i bought some Nashbar brakes on sale last year), chain, seatpost, seat, tubes, tires, blinky lights & grips.

Mein Bruder gave me a japanese-made steel frame (manufactured for Puck) and i’m eventually gonna build that up as a fixed gear. Alls i need for that are handlebars, tape, a front brake, seat, bottom bracket, crank arms, chainring, chain, better wheels w/flip-flop rear hub, cogs, tubes, tires, pedals & blinky lights.

Got my work cut out for me.

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