Regrettably, the time between posts has been increasing of late. Fortunately, no one has noticed because I’m the only one who reads this blog.
The reason for the delay, in part, is that I’ve been busying selling everything I possibly can on craigslist so I’ll have more money to spend on bike-related merchandise and the freedom to spend it with a clear conscience. I’ve also been working feverishly on a paper I’m to present at an academic conference in a couple of weeks (a bit of what I do to pay the bills). With those things now out of the way (and before a million other things come flooding in like the tide to fill the void left behind), I bring you…
a random list of stuff:
I just stumbled upon two great bits via Austin Bike Blog. First, “How to Fix Bikes” features a nice little collection of articles on everything from rust removal and painting, to building bikes for specific purposes, to starting your own repair business. Check out the custom-designed “Bicycle Search Engine,” which “will only search content rich related websites, this custom search engine will find what you are looking for relating to bicycles and bike maintenance.” Second, “The Practical Pedal” is “is a free quarterly magazine, a website, and a collection of blogs for anyone who thinks bikes make great transportation.” The articles in the magazine and the blog posts are really fun to read, and the entire site gives off this great vibe that makes riding a bicycle seem as ordinary and right as drinking coffee.
Errand-running with a bike rocks. Yesterday, in the space of an hour, I voted, mailed a package, returned an item, and deposited a check. Never has running errands felt so great. I arrived home wishing I had more places to go. I’m not sure what the best part was, but it might have been the parking space right next to the front door at each and every stop.
I recently purchased some deeply-discounted, casual, entry-level cycling shoes. The shoes are great. There is a noticeable improvement over ordinary cross-trainers, or the like. My feet don’t feel mildly numb on longer rides like they frequently did with my regular shoes, and I get a lot more out of my pedaling. Meanwhile, they’re comfortable enough to where around when I’m off the bike. The point here is that the difference is noticeable. I doubt I’d notice a difference between these shoes and shoes costing three or four times as much. I’m not saying there isn’t a difference, just that I probably wouldn’t notice it. The difference between these shoes and a pair of sneakers, on the other hand, is noticeable. That matters to me, because I’m not one to purchase and use something sport-specific just for the look or whatever else, all the while attempting to convince myself and others that the item is essential for some reason or another.
Unfortunately, either on account of the soles being too hard or my stock pedals being too cheap (or some combination of the two), I found my feet slipping on the pedals worse than ever. Rather than return the shoes, I decided to give clipless pedals a whirl. Having never before used clipless pedals, I was a bit apprehensive. Not only was I concerned about falling over and looking like a dolt (the latter being something I do perfectly well without falling over), I also didn’t want to be forced into wearing cycling shoes every time I jumped on the bike. Therefore, I decided to go with a set of Forte Campus Pedals, which were inexpensive and allow you to ride either with or sans cleat. There are pros and cons to be sure, and I’m still getting used to them, but clipping in and out has not been nearly as difficult or unsettling as I had anticipated. In fact, I’ve taken to them fully, and I’m absolutely digging the feel of being more securely attached to the bike. They are outstanding on longer bike path rides, but I’ve found them to be equally great riding in the city amidst traffic.
The stupidest thing arrived in the mail a couple of days ago. It was a bumper sticker accompanied by a pitch from a local insurance company. The sticker reads: “Please Don’t Hit Me. I’m not 100% Sure About My Coverage.” I’m not sure what the company imagines you doing with this, but I bet they could shave a few more pennies off your rates if they’d forgo the gimmicks. Regardless, I cut off the bottom third of the sticker and am now debating whether to put it on my bike or on my toolbox, because it takes on a different sense of urgency in the context of a bicycle. I’m not worried about my precious vehicle being damaged beyond what I can afford to repair; I’m worried about losing life or limb on account of some motorist more concerned about his car, his insurance coverage, his cell phone, or anything else other than the presence of others around him on the road.
I’ve been reading Richard Ballantine’s, City Cycling (London: Snowbooks, 2007; www.citycycling.org). It’s not exactly what I expected, but it’s a good book all the same, and I’ve managed to pick up quite a few ideas, tips, information, etc. on strategies for getting around by bicycle, and keeping your ride in good shape mechanically. Over time, I plan to comment on various items in the book here on The Adrian Spokesman. For now, I just wanted to share one suggestion the autor makes for maintaining your bike that I thought was very smart: compile your own customized, bike-specific repair manual by looking up the websites for all the manufacturers of your bike’s components and printing off the servicing instructions for each item.
All right, that’s enough for now. It is a beautiful, unseasonably warm day outside, and I’m certain this is the last one for a long, long time. I can’t get my head locked in to the work I should be doing, so I’m heading to wrench on my old Schwinn for while, and then taking my daughter for a bike ride.