Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Full panniers and 2200

So today I passed 2200 miles for the year - exactly on schedule.  Good thing because now the rains will come, and depending on their severity, I may not bike for a few days.

Later I did a little grocery shopping, having prepared the bike with both panniers, and I filled them with the  following:

1 75-oz bottle of laundry detergent
2 qts coffee creamer
1 can coffee
1 tall container of disinfectant wipes
1 box 100-ct sandwich bags
4 cans creamed corn
1 6-pk double roll toilet paper
3 single servings chocolate cake slices (on clearance for .39 each!!!)

So when all that was in the Bontrager side panniers and I got onto the bike, I could definitely feel the extra weight, but once I gained some momentum, the extra weight didn't seem an issue.  It wasn't an issue, that is, until I got home and faced the five steps that lead up to the front door of my building.  The big hurdle was really the first step, and once I got that momentum started, the heavy back end sluggishly followed.  In truth I could have removed the side panniers like shopping bags and carried them in separately, but why go to that trouble???  It was definitely odd getting it in through the doorway of my apartment, but all in all, everything handled beautifully.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Night riding like a boss

It has never been my intent as an urban cyclist to become a night rider.  Last year I avoided it by shifting my work hours earlier.  This year that's not entirely possible... so I find myself leaving work pretty much in the dark.

On the eve of Thanksgiving, I actually worked from 6-10pm, and since I didn't want to move my car from a coveted street parking spot right out the back door of my apartment building, I decided to brave the night on the bike and ride to and from work.  This decision was greatly bolstered by the timely arrival of my Cree 400 lumen head lamp which came from China for about $13 total (free shipping).  It was time to put it to the test.  It also came with a flashing red light, and one can never have enough of those, even though I already have two Bontrager tail lights mounted onto the pannier rack.,  The new light mounted on to the bike very simply and security and uses 3 AAA batteries, and the tail light uses 2 AAA batteries.

The ride went off without a hitch, but some things I noticed were this:  It doesn't matter how well your bike is lit - headlights of the oncoming cars are blinding.  Also, when riding down the suburban streets where the street lamps created dappled light between the trees, the shadowed areas at night a pitch black, and you can't really see clearly into them, even with a headlight, until you are nearly in them (and it helps if there isn't an oncoming car).  400 lumens is quite powerful, and in the non-flashing mode I kept it angled slightly down so as not to seem like a high beam to oncoming traffic.  If there was a lot of traffic, I turned it into the flashing mode just to make me annoyingly visible, and believe me, the flashing mode is extremely annoying - like a strobe light from hell.  Fortunately, I rode on my well-traveled route, so I knew where all the problem spots were in the road, but coming home at 10:00pm, there was hardly any traffic to speak of anyhow.  I wore my new merino wool arm warmers, and they kept my arms from chilling, but I have to find something for under my helmet to keep my ears warm.  I have a balaclava, but it's overkill for California weather - even at it's coldest.  That thing has been purchased for a cross country trip.  Maybe I can find a light-weight one.

Then, these came in the mail today:  MORE little lights.  The black one is a front light and the read a tail light.  I've put the red one on the back of my helmet.  So now, I'll have 4 red lights in the back, plus the lights on the tires, plus my reflective safety vest, plus the Cree light in front, and now a little extra light in the front.  I got these from somewhere in New Jersey - $3.70 for the pair and free shipping.  Yeah, I got two pairs, and now I'm going to order tons more to give away to friends with bikes.

I guess the bottom line is that I'm not really afraid to ride in the dark anymore.  I'm as visible as I can be.  My bike is as well equipped as it can be.  You can't treat night riding like day riding due to lesser visibility, but properly equipped, I think it can be done in relative safety.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Shopping with the panniers

Well, today I am working 6-10pm to prepare for Thanksgiving, and i needed I few things from the grocery store, so I stripped down the bike of non-essentials, put on the side panniers, and I rode down the street to Pavillions. 

When I arrived at Pavillions, I locked up the bike and took the panniers inside.  Now, I should have gotten a small cart, but I only chose a handbasket, and that was a mistake because the panniers took up too much room in the basket.  Nevertheless, I did my short list of shopping on one of the busiest food shopping days of the year. 

Note to self - make sure the panniers are totally ready to be loaded up before getting to checkout because uncinching everything to fully open them takes too long.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Beach ride

As my boss's nephew came to town and her housekeeper worked a day earlier than normal, I was given the day off.  I decided to use it for a long bike ride.  I was thinking about the ride to Temescal Canyon, then to the Ballona Creek bridge, then home, and that is exactly what I did, taking a detour on the way down to stop at the bank and a detour on the way back to visit Gloria's cake and candy supply and pick up some blue food coloring.  42 miles for the ride.  It was good!  More important, I got my monthly cycling goals back on track and even slightly ahead, so I know I can meet my goals for the month.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The long way to church

Since I like to try to make the 12:30 service at church, I decided to do the bulk of my bike trip before church. 

I left home about 9:40 a.m. and headed for the beach.  It was an absolutely stunning, beautiful day, especially since it had rained yesterday.  It was a perfect ride down, a perfect ride up to Temescal Canyon, and a perfect ride back.

When I had  just arrived at the beach, I happened across a young man (20s) who had his bike upsidedown.  I asked if he needed any help.  He did.  He was riding a single speed and the chain had come off, and he couldn't get it back on.  I got out one of my tools to try to help it back on, but it wasn't working.  Finally I said to take the chain off the small cog and get the large cog reset first.  Then we partially got it on the small cog, but couldn't get it on all the way.  However, when he flipped the bike over and took a few pedal strokes, the chain righted itself onto the cogs again.  Magic.

I made it to church in plenty of time for the service, but one thing I noticed, which I was thinking might happen, was that I got quite chilled when I started to cool down.  I had brought a sweatshirt with me, but I felt it was cumbersome, so I didn't mess with it, but it made me really wish I had a shawl or something.  I have ordered some merino wool arm warmers, and that would have maybe helped.  However, I have been watching these wool emergency blankets on ebay for a long time, and when I got home after church, one of the first things I did was to order one.  Hopefully it won't be too thick and I can just roll it up and tuck it into the top pannier bungie cords.  Even when I got home, however, I was still quite chilled through, and finally I crawled between my covers for a nap.  When I woke up with a sweat, I knew I was warmed again.  It wasn't that it was a cold day.  On the contrary, it was pleasant. 

As I left the beach, I hit the 2100 mile milestone.  34 miles total for the day.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Panniers galore!

Yesterday I got an order for some cookies that need to be delivered to the Farmer's Market on Friday, and as I didn't really want to drive on Friday, I decided that I would deliver them on the bike.  Problem is, the two panniers that are pink that I ordered are still in Scotland.  The accidental blue one that I ordered was somewhere in the postal system between the U.K. and here, and I was still stuck for need panniers.  So yesterday I stopped by I. Martin Imports and immediately picked up two Bontrager panniers that are black and red.  I also picked up a package of motion sensor lights that go on the valve stem to give yet another bit of light to the bike when it gets dark.

So I got home with the two panniers and lo and behold, the blue pannier had arrived in the mail.  Now, I don't like blue that much.  Not really at all.  The ebay ad had made it look like it would be pink.  So I will give that one away eventually.  Need to put it some place and get it out of my sight for right now!

I immediately tested the Bontrager panniers to see if they would hold the standard bakery box that I use, and they do!!!

So today I put the motion activated valve stem caps on the bike.  I had been thinking I would just change them out every day for night riding, but then I got to thinking that even if I have them stored on the bike, the motion of the bike will turn them on constantly, so they might as well get installed.  I will, however, swap them out for the regular valve stem caps for long daytime rides.  I also put one side pannier on the bike because I had to take something to the post office, but first I stopped at the pet shop.  I took the bike in and parked it, then got my cans of dog and cat food and checked out, putting the items directly into the pannier.  No shopping bag needed!

I left work just after 4:00, and I knew that if I cam straight home, I wouldn't get to see the effect of the valve stem caps in action in the dark, so I actually took a longer route to get home, forcing myself to ride some in the dark or near darkness.  Well, I guess the camera catches the effect differently, and it's hard to see it properly when you're on the bike, but at least that light was there.  Now if only the headlight would get here... should be here in one more week.

I then made my merry way to the post office, again taking the bike in.  I parked it just outside the main business area so that I could keep an eye on it. I did my business and left.

I didn't notice any difference in the way the bike handled with the extra weight on one side.

Friday, November 9, 2012

New rack

Well, who knew when I bought my GT Timberline Fitness Series bike back in 2008 that one day I would want a pannier rack for the back... but that the bike was not designed to take one normally!  So the pannier rack I got for my birthday could not be installed in the normal way.  In fact, none of the pannier racks sold at I. Martin Imports could be installed normally on my bike.  My bike is sort of elongated and weird.  But Ryan once again stepped up to the plate and worked some mechanical magic, creating brackets and getting it mounted on the bike.  The seat-post mounted Delta Magtrack had to be removed, so I guess now I'll be donating that and the matching pannier to a friend.  I have to wire my Bontrager tail lights into place.  I know those things will pop off the new rack at the first bump

Of course, while I waited for the rack to be installed, I perused every pannier and do-dad for the bike they carried, because all that stuff is terribly interesting to me.  My bike isn't about speed but functionality, so I'm always looking to see what accessory can make it more functional for my needs.  A side view mirror may be one of my next purchases.

Interesting to see last night's Grey's Anatomy... and a cyclist gets hit by a car in the first scene and Meredith spends the rest of the episode trying to save her life.  Interesting because Patrick Dempsey is an avid cyclist, so I'm sure that cycling may feature in other episodes.

The new top rack pannier seems to hold a little more than the old pannier, and it definitely holds my Bible better, so easier to get things in and out on Sunday for church.

Hoping to do a big ride tomorrow weather permitting.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

New bike gear

Today I got my first pair of arm warmers, and I also today ordered a 400 lumen head light (from China, of course!) because these night rides without proper headlighting are for the birds.  I had been researching how many luens would be best for me, and I've seen headlights with lumens up to 5000, but those things are like bright spotlights, like the kind used for search lights, and that's overkill.  I don't want to blind oncoming motorists!  I will see if 400 is plenty to light up the road a little.

I also recently got a new red pannier which will go on the new rack when I get that installed (maybe tomorrow?)

Also finally got the business cards to take on the bike so I can hand them out to cyclists I meet who may be doing something extraordinary.

I also got a small front pannier that attaches to the handlebars, but I got that for Nessie.  When we went on our big beach ride, she draped her fannypack over the bars and this will eliminate her need for even taking a fannypack.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

More night riding

Came home from work in the light but discovered a check in the mail from a client, and by the time I had walked the dog, it was dark.  But off I went again down Santa Monica Blvd., only this time I stripped the bike of anything unnecessary except for the rear pannier, because I decided I would go to Pavilions afterwards for some groceries. 

I locked the bike up at the bike rack just opposite Pavilions, and carrying my pannier like a purse, I went inside to shop.  I didn't get much because I didn't have much to carry stuff home in - just two small shopping bags to hang off the handlebars, but just going shopping with the bike was something that I need to start doing more of - not being afraid to lock it up.  Of course, the local shopping runs will be best when I am able to strip the bike first.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Night riding

 It's not my intention to ride at night, but today, the first work day after daylight savings time kicked in, I was sort of forced to, especially getting off work at 5:00 which meant there was no way I could get home before darkness.  Not only that, but I had to rush to the bank to deposit my paycheck.  Although there is a branch of my bank about a mile from where I work, it is not a way I have done in the dark, so I opted to go home and go to the one down Santa Monica Blvd.

I don't have a flashing white light for the front, just a small blue Firefly from Road ID.  So with the blue in the front and the red in the back, I must look a bit like a police bike, but the blue is better than nothing!  Did the bank errand and came home, no problems, but that was a total of 5 miles in the dark.

Freakishly hot today.  95 degrees.  Ugh.  So ready for real fall weather.