Saturday, May 30, 2009

No More Sandbagging

This year I got in the Bike Omaha Commuter Challenge from the beginning and devised a strategy to stay in first place on my employer's team. I already know that I can ride everyday, despite foul weather, so in order to take the top position, I need more miles than other consistent riders. I would take the long way to work and the long way home.

I mentioned this to Rafal during a long way home ride along the Omaha Riverfront Trail and he teased me saying I was "sandbagging" the Commuter Challenge. I, a cheater? No way. I'm an honest guy. But I figured I was heading home, and not really participating in a group ride to artificially gain miles. Rather, I would opt for wide loops home that might give me a 15 mile home instead of the usual five.

I'd never heard the term "sandbag" used like this, but I inferred from the context what Rafal meant. However, the relevant definition from Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day (5/1/2009) is:

to conceal or misrepresent one's true position, potential, or intent especially in order to take advantage of

And some explanation:

In the 19th century, the verb "sandbag" began to be used to describe the act of bludgeoning someone with a small, sand-filled bag -- a tactic employed by ruffians, usually as a prelude to robbing their victims. The verb went on to develop metaphorical extensions, such as "to coerce by crude means." By the 1940s, it was being used of a strategy in which a poker player with a good hand bets weakly, in order to draw other players into holding on to their hands and raising the bet. The use of "sandbag" has since evolved to refer to a general strategy of playing down one's position in order to gain some sort of advantage.

I posed the question to our team leader and he said that during the BOCC organizational meetings that this topic actually came up. The consensus was that riders should log no more miles than "the safest route home." The safest route home might be a little longer than the most direct route home, but for me, that wouldn't be more than one-half mile over my five mile trip.

So being an honest guy, I will only be reporting 50 miles each weak for the remainder of the BOCC.

Even though I can't count the long way home rides, I did have a nice one yesterday. I ran into Wes J. in the locker room before heading out yesterday. I asked if I could ride out of downtown with him on his way home to Millard. Jeff D. rides a similar way so I thought I might show Wes how Jeff gets to the Keystone Trail and Harrison Street. Plus, bike rides are always fun with company. I assumed that Wes was riding his hybrid bike and that I might be able to keep up with him.

When we met outside to mount up and pedal off, I noticed he was on his full carbon racing bike with itty bitty cogs and gigantic chainrings. There's no way I would be able to keep up with him. However, Wes is very gracious and stuck with me on the way up Farnam/St. Mary's, and then Leavenworth on to Elmwood Park and then finally the Keystone to my exit at Grover. I felt bad for slowing him down, as he told me he only gets the chance for a bike commute a few times a year. However I enjoyed the ride, and I think Wes liked the path out of downtown to the trail.

I hope to get a more serious road bike in the future and have a better chance and hanging on with the fast folks when opportunities like these come up.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

3,000 Miles And Counting

According to MapMyRide, I broke 3,000 miles this weekend!

I still have a month and a half before the one year anniversary of my cycle commuting conversion. I expect to log another 500 - 1,000 by then. (500 easy... 1,000 if I work at it).

Since the MapMyRide stats are fun to look at, I will reprint them here.

I'll also add that the total weight loss thus far is 25 pounds. It is my hope that with the longer summer daylight hours and extra time to get things done around the house that I'll be able to get some more miles in and see some more weight loss.

To those of you who have encouraged me in this venture, "Thank you!" To those who may be thinking of bike commuting, "Get out there and pedal. If I can do this, so can you!"

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Bike Tweeps in Omaha

Since the 2009 YP Bus Challenge I've been playing with Twitter. Aside from being a waste of time, Twitter is a fun way to keep up with friends, and make new ones. Many folks used Twitter to write short dispatches about their bus adventures (and misadventures), often with a humorous twist. By following the other people who were following the @YPBusChallenge updates, I was able to find some other like minded folks to keep up with. Through Twitter and the Bus Challenge, I had the pleasure to meet some of the folks in person. Even after the challenge is over, I find that I'm still interested in what some of these folks are tweeting.

Just for fun, I sent out a tweet to my network of followers asking for people to send to me photos of their bikes. I present them here for your viewing.

@rardy117 got a new bike for the Mayor's Bike Ride. He loves to be pedal it up long hills. I think he's put more miles on this bike in the first two weeks than some do in a year.

@jenzim123 has a hard time deciding which from her extensive helmet collection to wear when she bikes it to work.

@VJDavis2 is almost seven feet tall. The extra tall seat post helps him stay comfy on rides to all destinations midtown.

@aeikenberry rides her fully outfitted urban assault bike on the streets during the week and on the bike paths on the weekends.

@BradyMurphy didn't respond to my Twitter request, but I know where he keeps photos of his bikes. "Old Yeller" is often confused for a Union Pacific locomotive.

@UnderDaHill also didn't respond to the Twitter request. Bob was hard to catch as he was getting ready for a 100+ mile ride yesterday morning, so I snapped this picture during one of those rare moments while he wasn't moving.

@Pedal_EB. Wow, I don't even know what to say about this picture.

@ScottRedd... that's me. Finally, here's a photo of my 1976 Schwinn Le Tour II. I've got plans for this bike (that unfortunately keep changing). Here it is minimally restored to it's 1976 configuration.

So, Omaha bike tweeps, let's keep the bike conversations flying on Twitter. Be sure to tweet about the fun and cool stuff that happening around you when you're on your bikes.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

2009 Crank and ... Crank

On Friday, Biker Bob put out a call for a modified Crank and Camp ride. This time, all Crank... no Camp.

The idea was to meet at Blue Line at 7am, then cross the BK Pedestrian Bridge and ride to the Wabash Trace trail head. There we would meet up with some others, where Bob and Phil would ride to Missouri, turn around and head back before calling for a ride. Anyone was welcome to ride as far as they want, but everyone must provide for their own transport home, be it bike or SAG support. Bob and Phil will probably end up doing a 100+ miles before the end of the day.

Roxanne and I rode from home to the Blue Line where we met with Munson and Bob. BLC wasn't open yet, so Munson got some go-juice at Scooter's in the Holiday Inn. We crossed the bridge and headed toward the Wabash Trace. Roxanne and I rode back a ways while Bob and Munson rode on to meet Phil and Rafal.

Fast forward about 14 miles, one mile short of the trailhead. Bob, Munson, Phil and Rafal rode back on the Manawa Trail a ways to meet up with us. After a brief photo shoot, we all rode to the Wabash trailhead, and then about two miles down the gravel. Roxanne and I turned back and Munson joined us. I think Rafal went on to Silver City with Bob and Phil.

After a chatty ride back to downtown (in the rain), Roxanne, Munson and I had lunch at the Blue Line around 10am. Note: BLC isn't really set up for lunch at 10am, so be patient and kind when waiting for your meal that early in the morning.

After a nice lunch filled with more chat, we all headed back home. I think Munson had a full day planned with his fiancée, and Roxanne and I planned to take our daughter and her friend either to the zoo or the Renaissance Faire.

It was a lot of fun to meet up with all of the riders and share some cranks and conversation. I also welcomed the opportunity to introduce Roxanne to everyone. Finally, it was nice to meet Munson in person. We'd corresponded through the blogs mostly, but never talked face to face.

Total mileage for me and Roxanne: 42 miles. Not a bad ride at a time before many had even had lunch.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Pedal Powered Lawn Mower?

Not yet. At least I don't have one?

But as long as lawn mowers need gasoline, here's how I have to go get it.

It just seemed silly to get into a 2,000 pound vehicle to drive one half mile to pick up one gallon of fuel.

Yay for cargo racks and bungee nets!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Kids Can Be So Cruel

Thursday I wanted to head down to the Trek Omaha store and drop off a winter coat. The cause: get a balanced voice about on-street cycling on the Tom Becka show on KFAB while helping the disadvantaged. Read more on the Trek Store blog here.

Apparently, last week Becka went off on a rant about cyclists, even to the point of allowing callers to suggest that cyclists should be vehicularly murdered. (I haven't heard the show myself, so correct me if I got that wrong).

I had planned to cycle down with my wife, but at the last minute, she changed the plans: we're driving. The store would be closing soon, so we'd have to hustle down whether we cycled of motored.

When leaving, I heard a kid on his girlie bike ride up behind my car and call out to me, in the sing-song mocking vocal style we all remember from the school-yard days. Think "nah nah na naaah naah."

You own a car.

Only it had more syllables to make it fit with the taunt.

You own a caaa-aaar.

I was hurt. Wounded. I almost cried. I ride my bike every day. To work. To restaurants. Errands. Shopping. To Shenandoah.

Never had I felt such shame.

I've going to get you, Lucas.

Monday, May 11, 2009

2009 Mayor's Bicycle Ride and Bike To Work Week

This morning Activate Omaha kicked off the 2009 Bike To Work Commuter Challenge. Mayor Fahey was there, but unfortunately, did not ride. Additionally, neither candidate Hal Daub or Jim Suttle put in an appearance.

After a short proclamation by the Mayor, the group ride pedaled off from 10th and Bancroft to the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge. The weather was gorgeous, and the two and a half mile ride was all downhill, so more time was spent braking than pedaling.

RD was kind enough to host a group breakfast at his house where he made awesome pancakes and served coffee. I think about 10 people showed up at his place.

Here are some selected photos below. Click here for the full album.

Bikes at Bancroft Street Market

KPTM News Crew

Mark and Steve

Lucas is always there with his photography gear

Bob record stills and video of the event

The bike racks were filled to overflowing this morning

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bus Workout

This afternoon I took the MAT Route 95 Bellevue Express from downtown Omaha to Old Town Bellevue. The idea was to log a bus ride for the YP Bus Challenge, but not wimp out on a nice workout in this great spring weather. I had been talking with Brady about wanting to step up the cycling activity a bit, and decided to put my legs where my mouth is.

Before leaving work, I looked at the various wind speed and directional indicators that I use (flags on the First National building) to plan a route. The fierce and incessant south wind told me that I should try to ride south to north, if I could. I've taken a bus to ride home on the Keystone from the north before, so I was up for a change.

The 95 was very different from typical city routes. Once it drops off a lot of folks at the No Frills Park and Ride on Fort Crook Road, it turns uphill to meet up with Bellevue Boulevard and then continues south to Old Town Bellevue. The boulevard is a very scenic route running through the prettiest rolling hills in Bellevue. This route would get you close to the trails at Jewell Park, by the way.

Once in Old Town, I rode up to a convenience store for some Gatorade and Nutter Butters cookies. I didn't have a water bottle with me, so I knew I'd need some liquid refreshment. Then I headed down to Hayworth Park where the Keystone Trail/Bellevue Loop terminates.

View Keystone Trail in a larger map

I hunkered down and rode, slowly, against the wind for the first five miles. I kept a low gear and high cadence, to avoid stressing the still-tender knee. Finally the trail turned west, and then northwest, and I got to enjoy 15 miles of sweet tailwind all the way to Grover Street. I didn't have a speedometer or GPS running, but I think I was cruising 18-20 MPH without straining too hard. I know I got a decent workout, though, as there was quite a bit of sweat involved (most of it on my glasses; how can I stop that?).

My morning ride to the 76th and Cass MAT transit center was five miles, and my ride home from Bellevue was 22 miles. After getting minimal miles over the past two weeks of the YP Bus Challenge, I was very happy with my 27 mile commute today.

Now if I could only do a 27 mile commute every day I might drop a few more pounds and get some faster legs.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Grocery Store Biking

Riding bicycles just to ride is a lot of fun, but one of my joys is utility cycling. From day one in my modern cycling epoch I made sure my main commuter bike had a rack, plus a pair of grocery panniers to hang on the rack.

A grocery pannier can carry quite a bit of junk. They are so deep and expansive that I usually don't get grocery bags at the store. I just pack my own groceries into the panniers. The Trek Interchange grocery panniers that my wife and I use also have cinch straps so the bag can be made really snug against the contents contained within.

The picture above shows 57 pounds of groceries contained in two grocery panniers. A trivial amount was carried in the plastic bags on my wrist.

The biggest problem with grocery shopping by bike is overbuying. If I'm not careful, it's easy to get too many groceries so that they don't all fit in the bags. Wrapping up boxy items into brown paper bags and then securing to the top of the cargo rack using bungee cords is one solution to carrying extra stuff. Another is to pack lighter, more voluminous items like bread, nacho chips, paper goods, etc., into a double-bagged plastic sack and carrying on the wrist or handlebars.

I've also discovered that a bottle of wine fits perfectly into a water bottle cage, while adding a touch of class to any bike. While my multi-tool can open a beer, there is no corkscrew on it, however.

A few times I tried loading groceries into the panniers as I was shopping. This is a good way to ensure I don't overbuy, but I always feel a little funny, almost like I am shoplifting.

I patronize three grocery stores by bicycle. The first is a neighborhood Bag and Save about one-half mile away. It doesn't stock many of the health food items we use, but is great for simple and quick shopping. The second is a Hy-Vee about two miles away. Their health market sections do carry many of the vegetarian items we like. Finally, the Whole Foods Market is about 9 miles away and carries the rest of the specialty vegetarian and vegan items we like. A weekly ride to Whole Foods has almost become a Sunday morning ritual for me.

Carrying 50+ pounds of goods on a single bike is quite a bit. However, if I needed to carry more, or to carry larger items, I'd have to add a trailer, an Xtracycle long-tail, or get one of those awesome Dutch cargo bikes that's almost like a bike interbred with a wheelbarrow.

If you try using panniers to carry a load of groceries, be careful of the changes in your bike's handling. Before mounting your bike, it will want to fall as it leans over. Once you're moving, you won't even notice the extra weight, however, pay attention to cornering, and also watch out for bumps that might jostle your groceries out of the bags.