Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Remember the old McDonald's jingle for the McLean deluxe (as in mick lean, not mick clean, as this thing surely did not clean out the arteries)? The hot stay hot and the cool stays cool. It was an ingenious design to serve the thing in a standard styrofoam container, the ones that open and close like clam shells--but here's the ingenious part---serving it with the container open, i.e both sides face up/concave, with the hot part of the burger (one half of the bun and the beef) on one side, and the cool side of the burger (lettuce,tomato) on the other, on top of the other bun. Will such a feat ever be duplicated in the annals of asinine marketing? Will it ever cool down?

Oh, I know, it's way too early in DC to say "will it ever cool down?", being only early June. But when the ride starts out in 70 degree weather, it can only go up from there. The forecast is for 98 degrees in DC today (but a much nicer 97 up here in Gaithersburg where I work) so hot damn this should be a fun ride home. The wall of heat is felt at intersections or any time you stop. Then it fades with the breeze of forward motion, until it doesn't, and your ears remain hot from stoplight to stoplight. It's not good when your ears are palpably hot. I don't look forward to that in few hours, when I catapult from my seat at work and head out on the Tikit into the hot, blue (hazy) yonder. But, given my 17-year-old car has no air conditioning, I'll gladly take the bike.

Lately on my commute-by-bike days, I've been tacking on a couple extra miles. It did wonders this morning, as I was literally humming and clicking my heels as I headed from the warehouse (where I "park" the bike against a random crate) into the office. It's nice to come to work with that positive feeling, even if some days it can get ground out of you like garlic through a press. But I like what I do, for the most part, and I love the casual environment. Any place I can wear shorts, and park my bike inside---gravy! So, here's to all us working stiffs, and especially those that choose to bike when they can. I only hope I can make it work when the baby is born. Oh yeah, that's another post to come!

Monday, June 6, 2011

2011 Commuting (Looong Overdue)

I've been commuting to a new job since late 2010, so it's high time I update my commuting route and associated travails. I now bike from my house in Tenleytown to one of several northbound red-line Metro stops. That's the short leg of the commute. Then I bike from Shady Grove Metro to my office, just about dead-on 5 miles. That's the lovely* bike lane shown above. My wife, upon seeing it for the first time when she drove me to work one day, was duly impressed with my obvious safety, the white line surely a clear demarcation point for out-of-control texting motorists.

Nonetheless I have pretty much adventureless commutes on this section, except when the DOT decides to put those orange barricade thingies directly in the bike lane, and I have to ride around them, which entails riding left, as there is no curb, and into a traffic lane.

Once the bike lane summarily ends (a common feature of bike lanes) I have the option of continuing on the road (after hopping into traffic/dodging right turning cars, since the bike lane was continued, up to its terminus, to the RIGHT of a right-turn bay), or hopping onto a sidepath. I do often take the sidepath as there are never more than 2 bikes on it (including me) and no more than one arm-swinging morning walker. It's actually a bit of a pastoral section of road, with some sort of county-run (?) orchard, so there is the rare greenspace, complete with the occasional buzzard overhead, and dead, decaying goose on the path itself (preceded by enough goose-poop to fertilize said orchard).

Then it's into the industrial park itself, complete with moving van companies, and soon-to-be second tattoo parlor. It's an interesting place to work as there is an airfield nearby, so I get three parts flat-bed trucks and one part Corvettes and other super cars owned by those who can afford planes.

So that's my commute!

*Inasmuch as any bike lane can be considered lovely.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"So I Just Have To Ask..."

[ <--not my bike]
"So I Just Have To Ask..." said a woman riding up to me on her very nice looking and very expensive looking Trek road bike. I was in front of the National Cathedral here in DC, a favorite place to visit when starting or stopping a ride (I'm only a half mile or so from it). So we chatted about my Bike Friday. She asked how I liked it, which if course I answered in the affirmative and did all I could not to brag on it like a proud parent whose random kid just did something great at such-and-such elementary school. She also correctly guessed I am a commuter. I guess I can't hide my stripes!

As it turns out, she is a triathlete, hence her gorgeous, tricked-out bike. She had done an Ironman (IronWoman in her case!) and "thought she'd better have a suitable bike". Furthermore, she works at the National Cathedral as a fundraiser. How cool is that? You can't beat a folding bike for ice-breaking. Folding bikes: short in stature, long in conversation. Hey, that's a good tagline. I wonder if I can sell it to Dahon or someone? Bidding starts now. Please send money to me directly. Aaah, who am I kidding! Just send it straight to Bike Friday so I can get the Speeding Tikit model I am dreaming about these days.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Summer, Fare Thee Well

Officially summer doesn't end until September 21st, but with temps right now in tolerable range, I bid adieu to the heat and humidity. Yeah, summer will give one last try in the coming days to give the Mother of all heat wedgies, but it's a lamentable last gasp of desperation. Fall will come striding in, an with it, the finest riding weather of the year!

I've got an inkling to do an overnighter on the Pocket Crusoe along the C&O Canal towpath. I did a warmup ride this weekend, and discovered that riding the trail in my slicks is about as much fun as puberty. So, instead of riding the trail due west, I am going to ride west on MacArthur Blvd, then pick up River Rd. Waaaay out there, River becomes a tiny little tree-lined road that should be beautiful in the fall. At some point I'll duck over to the trail to camp out, and ride a bit of it to take in the Potomac River. and the canal. The hard packed dirt you see in this picture isn't so bad (minus the embedded rocks you have to dodge), but as the trail rises up to meet each old lock, the grade gets covered in loose gravel--not the finely crushed gravel as found on the Great Allegheny Trail. That stuff is smooth and secure. No, this gravel is more like large fish tank rocks and it does its best to dislodge me from the bike by playing tug-of-war with my front tire. Hence, I'm thinking to ride the road. Buying new tires with some grip is not immediately in the budget, especially considering the little used they would get. Most of my riding is road and paved trail. But, some expanded tours could be in my future. Any excuse for a bike ride!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mi (Bike) Casa Es Su Casa

Today the DC Flyer and I went across town to a fledgling bike cooperative---the Bike House in Petworth, DC. This is a small group of volunteers who meet on the, um, grounds of Qualia Coffee on Georgia Ave, NW. Check out Qualia Coffee here:, and check out the Bike House Co-op here:

Qualia extends its backyard to the Bike House. It was a blast hanging out, meeting "customers" and even fixing a flat and making a (hopefully will hold successfully) boot for the punctured tire out of a round-cut piece of plastic milk carton from the recycle bin. As always, the DC Flyer garnered much attention and a serious "Whoooaaa: that was waaay cooler than I even imagined" response from one of the volunteer mechanics when I folded the rear triangle/wheel under the frame.

It was great to see some old, resurrected bikes make their way to the gathering. I worked a little bit on a Schwinn Varsity, in it's glorious original electric Kermit green; the same paint, I do believe, one would have found on an AMC Gremlin from the same era.
All told, it was a great time at the co-op. I hope to go back once a month and learn and help. They also have mechanic clinics one hour before the general public can drop by, so I can hone my primitive skills before tackling customers' bikes. The weather was beautiful (right before some rain tomorrow!) and everyone was cool. I hope this group finds a permanent home. I wouldn't want them to "roast" in the summer sun if they're still out back of Qualia Coffee come summertime. Sorry, I had to go there with the coffee pun, and I don't even like coffee. But I do like bikes :)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Where Has My Tikit Gone?

No, thankfully it hasn't been lost or stolen. But where have I taken it? Let me count the, places:

1. On the Maryland Ride-on bus front rack.
2. On the Maryland Ride-on bus, covered, inside the bus!
3. On the Maryland Ride-on bus, uncovered, inside the bus!
4. Inside the library and parked under the table.
5. Inside the Safeway grocery store, down the aisles and through the checkout, wheeling along all the way!
6. Inside the office, parked under my desk. (Okay, very pedestrian when it comes to Tikits and Bromptons and the like. So sue me.)
7. Inside a sushi restaurant. This was the best. The staff wanted to check out the bike, so I ended up giving them a fold/unfold demo right there in the restaurant. They all rolled it around. One gentleman, possibly the owner or manager, was interested in folding bikes and had been doing a little digging around. I gave him several brand names to check out and dissuaded him from the "A-bike". Sorry, folks. I hate to discriminate against a fellow folding bike, but c'mon. Pee Wee Herman wouldn't be caught dead on one of those, not even in a darkened movie theater, doing...nevermind. This manager/owner was trying to show me via his laptop some brand he had seen that was from england. "Brompton?" I offered. "Strida?" Nope. He never could find the webpage where he had seen it, and I couldn't help as all his google search results were in Japanese!

Where it has not been:
1. To a bike shop. I've been able to dial in the shifting well enough with just the barrel connector, so the chain stays on the sprocket where you put it; no wall climbing down a gear or bungee jumping up a gear. The shifter is still tight--it takes effort to downshift (move to a larger sprocket) but I'm used to it now. At some point I will see if I can loosen it up. I don't know if the cable just needs some more slack, or what. I don't think there is friction because it shifts pretty smoothly. It just takes a little muscle to get it to the next index point on the shifter. Shifting up is still tight but much easier with gravity on your side.

I have found the Tikit to get more comments than my Pocket Crusoe, and that's cool. The Crusoe is generally my higher-speed, free-time bike for trail rides and zooming around the city for exercise or longer distance destinations like going across town. So I am happy to be off to the races on that bike. (Why is cross town always so much farther than going downtown or uptown? It's a good thing Billy Joel didn't fall in love with a crosstown girl. They'd have never seen each other!) The Tikit is the attention gravity point. People get sucked into its event horizon and I strike up lots of conversations. It's great fun, even at 05:30 when I catch the bus. That's all folks. Whatever your ride, ride it!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tikit to...Read?

Today I did some urban limit testing with the Tikit. On my commute to work, I folded and covered the bike for the bus portion to see if the driver would let the bike on that way. Recall the near disaster in a previous post where the bus rack swing arm fell off the front wheel and I was lucky to still have a bike and not a failed science project!
Well, the driver didn't flinch as I boarded the bus. I got a seat at the front with room to hold onto my bike. The front seats face out to the aisle so there is not a seat in front to cramp the space. I don't know if I can squeeze into a standard seat (with another seat in front of it) with the Tikit. That's a project for another day. So, complete victory for the Tikit design (at least with this particular driver). The fold is super fast and so is using the attached bike cover. Less than a minute, probably, to fold and cover.
Onto a store report. How would the folded Tikit be greeted in a city business? I tested the waters at our local DC library branch. Again, not even a batted eye as I wheeled the folded Tikit into the library. It even parked neatly under the table where my wife and I sat. Praise again!
All in all, I have no complaints. The shifter is loosening a bit (as it has required some force to downshift), and after properly inflating the tires today, it rides a HELL of a lot better. It felt so slow before, and when I finally took my floor pump to it, I found out why. I don't think there was more than 25 PSI in either tire, and these are rated for 60-85 PSI! Thank the tube Gods I didn't pinch flat. I now inflated the tires to the low 80's and they feel fast and firm, with just a touch of give to help on the city streets, smooth as they are :). Green Gear, great job on this bike.