Monday, January 31, 2011

Bless Me Intertia For I Have Spinned

A direct connection to the pavement

-Bless me Intertia, for I have spinned.
-What have you done now, JRA?
-I was riding my fixed-gear and momentarily tried to coast. Twice.
-Do not fret, this is a normal transition for a free-wheeler. A few hundred more miles and this lazy habit will pass. Even if you forget, I will quickly remind you. Did you crash?
-Oh no, at least my spin is smooth and supple enough that I went with the flow OK.
-Well done, JRA.
-Thanks, Inertia. Also, there's more...
-Yes, what is it, your confession is just between us. You may tell me anything.
-Intertia, I started to feel like brakes are less vital than I once thought! The feeling of feathering the front brake while using leg resistance to slow the back wheel put such spinful thoughts into my head! I dared to wonder how soon it will be before I can stop with no brakes at all!
-This also is normal. You won't go blind or anything for feeling this way. These natural impulses are not to be feared, but understood, controlled, and mastered.
-Whew! Ok, there's one more thing.
-I don't know if I should say.
-Of course you should. Get it off your chest. You'll feel better, my son. It's not the track stand thing, is it?
-No, no nothing like that. After about 40 miles of riding fixed-gear, I was struck with the strong sense that a freewheel is a needless affectation implemented by an overzealous engineer with a solution in search of a problem.
-Shhhhhh! Not so loud my son. 

-I know, I know, there may be free-wheelers about. Also, there's that fancy Eno freewheel flip-flopped on the useless side of the hub, which I got for Christmas after relentless hinting to my beloved for weeks, and which she purchased against her better judgment.
-Uh oh, yes, that is a potential problem. Well, look at it this way: that freewheel is there in case you need it. Perhaps to descend South Mountain, or Mount Lemmon.
-Brakes would probably be good there, too.
-Now you are starting to see the other side of the hub, my son. Balance in all things.
-Should I go fixed for commuting now, Inertia?
-You must look deep inside to the spin within to find the answer. Only time will tell. Legend has it that a fixed-gear ridden to commute in the summer heat of Phoenix can take you to The Next Level.
-What should I do in the meantime, Inertia?
-Keep riding that fixed-gear. Say three Hail Sheldons, and perform your assigned penance: Get up. Go ride.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Salt Bike

A salt bike. Or, a perch for a happy little bird.

The annual dry-up is underway, when Salt River Project drains parts of the canals and removes everything that is not water or canal. Actually, they remove the water, too, temporarily, but they put it back, and I believe that the scope of the sentence covers the intent or purpose of the dry-up, so if I had said that they removed the water, too, then anyone looking at the canal after the dry-up would see it full of water and be within their rights to state that I was in error.

This canal carries water from the Salt River, named at least in part because it is salty, due to salt springs flowing into it. I assume this bicycle was here for only a year, since the last dry-up, so the white encrustation on this bicycle, similar to that on the vacuum cleaner I posted  a photo of last year, illustrates why the river got that name. This abandoned BSO was so encrusted I didn't even recognize what it was, until the little bird perched on the pedal caught my eye. I saw also people walking in the slightly damp canal looking for stuff, I guess. Pickers. Really, though, all I saw in addition to this bike were shopping carts and patio chairs. The canal seems to attract those. I ponder the scenario: "Hey dude, let's throw this cart into the canal, you grab that patio chair, that would be pretty awesome!!" Would it? Was it? Seeing those rusted and encrusted (love that word, yeah), hunks of junk down there in the smelly brine doesn't seem that awesome. Ah well. Perhaps in their submerged structures the amur catfish find refuge, or even shade, from the punishing sun of summer. The cycle of water, salt, and junk. Get up. Go ride.

Bird decided to seek a new cycle

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Lights On Locked Up

Have you seen this before? It was a first for me. A bicycle locked up at the rack, with both the front and rear lights blinking away. Surely they noticed the lights blinking while they were locking it up? In a hurry maybe? Or a new super duper type of battery that lasts so long you don't have to turn the lights off?

Then I was wondering: should I turn them off? What if it wasn't the owner of the bike who turned them on, what if they are the "I leave my removable lights on my bike when I park it" type, and someone passing by thought it would be funny to turn them on, and were hanging out nearby to watch the reaction? I don't know.

I guess it's one more way a bicycle is better than a car, though: if you leave your car's lights on, it may not start at the end of the day. The bicycle motor, on the other hand, doesn't need a battery to get going. Just a hunk of dark chocolate, or a cup of strong coffee. Oh, and some excellent weekend bicycle riding ahead also helps. Get up. Go ride.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Olives In My Bike Lane

Before I lived here, I don't think I imagined olive trees growing in Phoenix

One more fruit that tends to drop off trees and land in the bike lane this time of year are olives. I fought with that sentence, by the way. I am going with "olives" as the subject of the sentence, so I believe "are" is the correct verb form to go with it. You would think that I would have subject-verb agreement more or less nailed down tight by this point.

It's also one more fruit that you can't just pick up off the ground and eat, generally speaking. Olives have to be cured or fermented first, because, according to Wikipedia, they "contain phenolic compounds and oleuropein, a glycoside which makes the fruit too bitter." People I know who do this use the lye method, although apparently there are many other alternate ways to cure them.

I had to mention the olives for completeness, because I have already mentioned most of the other stuff that grows in this city, and I didn't feel right about leaving out olives, although their pollen doesn't agree with me much, in fact it makes my eyes water and makes me sneeze, but olive oil is an essential part of what I eat, so I can't hold that against the trees that make them. But people do hold it against them, so much that you are no longer allowed to buy or plant olive trees (or male mulberry trees) any more. I'm not sure how long the ones already in the ground will live, but in any case, the days of olives in my bike lane certainly have some limit, out there in the future. So I will keep noticing them, and think, "Hey olives, hit the road!" Get up. Go ride.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I Am Traffic

This street is better for bicycle commuting with no bike lane and no through sidewalk.

I have discovered that this street, a non-arterial, single lane each way, residential street with a few cars per minute, traveling 25-35 mph, is best for commuting by bicycle when the sidewalk and bike lane are closed. Yes, you read that correctly. For the simple reason that when they are closed, I am traffic, and all doubts and ambiguities are removed from the equation. I have started to love these sections of my bicycle commute, because I look over my left shoulder, signal, merge, then ride down the middle of the lane: there is nowhere else to go. The signs, barriers, trucks with flashing lights and backup beepers, men with shovels, and holes in the pavement make it crystal clear: I AM TRAFFIC!!

White car parked illegally in the closed bike lane: I LAUGH AT YOU!! I AM TRAFFIC!!

I do not ride in the construction zone lane so long that cars back up behind me. I wouldn't do that in my car, neither do I do that when I am cycling. I would pull over and let them pass when safe to do so, although that's not necessary very often. These zones are pretty narrow. The cars slow down a lot, and I am not really that much slower than them anyway here.

OK, JRA, but why's this better than when the bike lanes are open? Because cars don't back out of driveways here partway into the traffic lane like they do into the bike lane. Instant turn drill, anyone? Twice in one week! And kids pushing grocery carts seem to think it's fine to roll them into the bike lane in front of me, without looking (instant turn drill again), which they may be more hesitant to do to a line of cars. Maybe not, you can never tell about kids with carts, I guess.

Back in July, I also wrote about construction zones and shopping carts, and bicycle commuting safety. These are not topics I generate, they choose me, out there in the streets. But now I am gaining clarity on the factors behind the safety for cyclists in construction zones: the alternatives are removed, the cars are slowed and herded, and the situation is crystal clear to all involved. I am traffic: hear me roar. Get up. Go ride.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

There's a Hex on the Torx Revolution!

The revolution is built with hex fasteners

I think I read in one of the free magazines that is sent to me for free because I am a target demographic or something that bicyclists should consider carrying Torx drivers because pretty soon, any day now, before you know it, bicycles will switch from hex to Torx fasteners for holding all the vital bits together. I believe it was either Ungodly Expensive Rides magazine, or perhaps 300g Frames Times. You know, the glossy magazine where $4000 is called a "mid-range" bike.

I saw the above tool at The Cheap Tool Store, picked it up, found it not only to be cheap, but light in weight, and decided it may prove to be good insurance for the coming bicycle fastener Torx revolution. Then, upon closer examination, I found that the Torx revolution hasn't made it to the tool factory yet.

I pretty confident that company that manufactured this tool is not a licensee of the actual Torx technology. This probably more accurately a star driver, a hexalobular internal driving feature, or even an ISO 10664 compliant driver. It's OK that it takes a hex driver to adjust it, though, since my bicycle multi-tool certainly has the right bit on it, and I apparently won't be needing it much longer. Once the revolution gets going, I mean. Get up. Go ride.



The tones and shadows appeal to me in this shot, and the way the pipes intersect with the wall.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

How Full My Head of Useless Thoughts

Fixed: elevated

Output from my 20 mile experimental fixed-gear ride today:

If a purpose or goal in my life is to establish or maintain fulfilling happiness, why don't I eliminate all factors from my life which work against that goal? And, conversely, install, amplify, nurture, grow, or enhance the factors which support happiness?

If a purpose or goal in riding my bicycle is to spin in silence for miles of motion-mediation at a medium to medium-high aerobic level in a relatively flat landscape, why don't I eliminate all factors from my ride which work against that goal? And, conversely, install, amplify, nurture, grow, or enhance the factors which would support it?

Lubricate everything that makes noise, and remove it if it is inherently and irremediably noisy. If it is unreliable, if it has no clear purpose, if it breaks easily, if there are simpler alternatives, chuck it. If it causes pain, if it slows me down, tear it off. If it's just for show it's got to go. A source of unrelieved worries? Gone. Something that doesn't work as planned, or doesn't live up to the words that were spoken of it when it was first obtained? Removed. Needlessly complex? Simplify by excision. Too high-maintenance? Disconnect and put into a box in a quiet, dark place where maintenance is not required. Something so costly that its value doesn't justify the expense? Craigslist, perhaps someone else with see value and cough up the expense.

I read and thought and worried about riding the fixed gear. For example, I was concerned about the pedals, should I go clipless, or platform? I opted for clipless, but worried that clipping in or out would be trouble, awkward, requiring some sort of mystical magical fixed gear technique to accomplish without slicing open an artery. Wrong, in my case, I am so comfortable and used to my clipless pedals that it was super-smooth to use them with a fixed-gear. The spinning wheel answered me: your head was full of useless thoughts about clipless pedals, rather than worrying so much, all you had to do was get up and go ride and your practiced feet would know what to do.

I read and thought and worried about the non-stop pedaling that would be required, the no coasting, the pedals that keep turning as long as the wheel is turning. The spinning wheel answered me: yes it is quite a change from riding with a freewheel, but most of what you thought about was wrong. What was right was biomechanics and muscle memory of millions of revolutions you've made before that mean that your legs know what to do with a fixed gear, too, as long as they don't forget too often that coasting without pedals turning ain't gonna happen, which they didn't always remember, but mostly did, and the turning wheel reminded them when they forgot.

I read and thought and worried about going up curbs and over bumps and through gravel and around corners with the pedals constantly turning, as if any one of these would result in instant and catastrophic wipe-out for the fixed-gear n00b. The turning wheel answered me: how full your head is of useless thoughts! Of worries with some tenuous basis but without import or magnitude in practice. 

I worried and thought that somehow riding a fixed-gear would cause my solid sense of balance to fail me, and result in a wipe-out, so I wore jeans with padded shorts underneath, a sweatshirt with a thin layer underneath, and gloves. The turning wheel answered me: how full your head of useless thoughts! It was 70F and I was floating along on a silent fixed-gear bicycle in the brilliant sunshine with a clearer mind than I have had in some time, and felt rather silly about the "vanishing sense of balance" concern.  I remained upright. I floated along.


The morning started off on a very good note. I knew that after putting on the cog and lockring, the first ride would tighten the cog even further, and it would be a good idea to tighten the lockring to take up the slack. So I first rode a couple miles, including putting some torque into it, went home, and put the spanner on the lockring again. As I did so, I had a feeling about how much the cog should have tightened, and how much the lockring should turn to match. As I put weight on the spanner, the lockring turned exactly that much. I may not have been one with the fixed-gear bike, with a head so full of useless thoughts, but I was one with the lockring, which felt like an auspicious start. 

At certain points during the ride, my brain radio did shut down, and I just rode. I'm not getting mystical about the fixed-gear, I'm getting pragmatic: it dawned on me that it is an effective and direct technique to remove everything from your ride which is not contributing to the achievement of your purpose or goal, and sometimes, that might mean ditching the freewheel. Other times, other settings, a freewheel might just make your day. How to know when? How full my head of useless thoughts! Get up. Go ride.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fixed! The Bag of Symbolic Elimination

Sugino spanner, Dura-Ace lock ring, Dura-Ace 16t track cog

I think the last time I rode any distance on a cycle without a freewheel, I was four years old, riding a tricycle around the neighborhood. My friend Terry and I covered a lot of ground, including riding down a hill that went down to a pond in the woods, where I believe games involving GI Joe occurred. As I recall, I didn't try to pedal my way down, but instead stood on the back platform. Or, both of us would ride one trike, one with his legs stuck out free of the pedals, the other riding on the back. No brakes. No helmets. A long summer on solid wheels with direct drive to move along the asphalt.

I got bigger bikes with freewheels, brakes, even chains, as I grew older. Then one day several years back I came across the article by Sheldon Brown about fixed gear bicycles, and I was both intrigued and repelled. But, Sheldon presented such a compelling explanation for why one should ride fixed gear bicycles that I knew that I would end up doing it some day.

Since my single speed has a flip-flop rear hub, I flipped it, greased all the threads, spun on the cog and nups on the lockring ("nups" is spun backwards, appropriate for left-hand threads), and used the spanner to tighten the lockring.

One of the sites I consulted about riding fixed suggested that when you set up your bike for fixed gear, you should put all the stuff you don't need any more into a bag. I thought I would do that in a symbolic manner to represent my emancipation from all that stuff that I relied on Pre-Fixed (P.F.) in my life, even though I still have several other bicycles which will remain un-fixed. This is a symbolic act of emancipation. Free, I tell you, I am free!

Brake stuff. Won't need that anymore!

Multi-speed chains, cog sets, derailleurs, freewheels: not needed anymore!!!!

All non-fixed stuff in a bag of symbolic emancipation!!! It's a weight lifting off me!

I'll take my first fixed-gear baby-step rides this weekend, see how it goes, and report back. The cog and lockring are the first time I've purchased new Dura-Ace parts, I think. With a White Industries Eno freewheel on one side, and this cog on the other, I'm pretty certain I win some type of award for an absurd pairing of precision drive-train with cheap hub and wheel, although the wheel has stayed true for several hundred miles since I adjusted it after the first couple of rides, so it's working OK. 

Trying to learn how to ride a fixed-gear bicycle by reading about it is like trying to learn a martial art by looking at pictures of people practicing it. I may not have a fixed-gear sensei to show me the ropes, but I do have Sheldon's thoughts in my head, and memories of the long days riding the tricycle stored in some deep, golden memory banks. I'm sure I have a lot to learn. Universe, go ahead, try to bring me down with your "gravity", your "physics", I'm ready for whatever you got, me and my fixed-gear bicycle. Terry, wherever you are, I'll be thinking about you, my tricycle wingman, as I'm out there with the wheel spinning my feet around. Get up. Go ride.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Dawn With Prayer Flags and Full Moon

So many triangles, so many colors...
This is me, playing the "happy bicycle commuter with Tibetan Prayer Flags flying on my top tube beneath a purplish dawn sky lit up with a full moon" game. I much prefer this game to the crazy aggressive motorist game. I wish I never have to give out any more Sad Little Monkey awards. I'd like to focus on bicycles, and riding, and not on the easy and rapid deployment of rage over the smallest of things that drivers exhibit.

So, I'm hoping to get my track cog this weekend, to try out some fixed gear adventures. Yeah, I might put on the downhill mountain bike armor, I don't know yet. We'll see how it goes. I hope to be round like the moon, and not flappy like flags. Heh. Get up. Go ride.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

On the Aerodynamic Characteristics of Tibetan Prayer Flags Under a Top Tube

TPF Boundary Layer Disruptors deployed under the top tube

I tied a string of Tibetan Prayer Flags beneath the top tube of my commuter bicycle, Yasuko. What I gleaned from the linked article on Wikipedia is that these are lung ta flags because they are horizontal. "lung ta", the article states, is Tibetan for "wind horse". The colors are supposed to be hung in this order, and stand for the elements and the Five Pure Lights. Surrounding the horses pictures on the flags are mantras. The section of the article titled "Symbolism and Tradition" was most interesting to me for the purposes of tying them onto my bicycle, but in case you are disinclined to click the link, or perhaps philosophically opposed to Wikipedia, I will cut to the chase and quote one relevant section: "By hanging flags in high places the "Wind Horse" will carry the blessings depicted on the flags to all beings. As wind passes over the surface of the flags which are sensitive to the slightest movement of the wind, the air is purified and sanctified by the Mantras."

To be frank, I'm not very confident that something like that, specifically, happens in practice, nor do I think there's a way to discern if it does, or doesn't. However, I am certainly in line with the intent of that. I can get behind the idea of wishing to propagate "peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom," and if flying some Tibetan prayer flags on my bicycle lets one or two people know that is my wish, maybe some good can come of it. Paradoxically, maybe it actually can happen, since it is straightforward enough to imagine that someone who understands the symbolism of the prayer flags flapping in the wind created by the forward progress of my commuter bicycle through the warm desert air may be inclined toward those mental states or practices through the experience. The idea isn't that the flags cause gold coins to drop out of the air, or that they alter the rotation of the planet, it is that by flying them you transmit the message promoting peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. Which on second thought may be possible to do. If you accept a kind of metaphorical interpretation of "pure air" then, referring to an atmosphere of promoting these grand concepts, and impure air the opposite, then that also seems possible to me. Or at least, a very happy thought. Which I can always use more of.

Me promoting peace, purifying the air around the Soleri Bridge and Plaza this morning, seeking happy.

They flap around a lot less than you might think. In practice, the flags seem to find positions of aerodynamic equilibrium to hang out in, and then make happy little pinging sounds when they bump against the tube when I turn, or when the wind changes, or my speed alters.  Not sure where they would fall on the Aerodynamic Drag Chart for Human Powered Mobility, however. More road testing required.

Peace! Wisdom! Compassion! Strength! ping ping ping. Get up. Go ride.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Two Separate Suns

Two separate suns
A bridged reflection splits them
Name them peace, and mind.

Get up. Go ride.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Hammer, Hammer, All the Way Home

I felt like I lacked the oomph to get up and go for a ride today. Maybe it was the pre-marathon feast I ate last night with the marathoners. No, I didn't run in the race today myself, but I felt like I should do my part and stuff my face right alongside those about to rock. But man, did I feel like a bloated hunk of blubber today.

I knew the right thing to do. But, I don't know, maybe it was blood sugar out of whack, lack of rest, stress from work, probably as usual a potent combination of the above. but I just didn't feel it. So I made a cup of strong chai, put the Rolling Stones Some Girls LP on the turntable, and cranked it.

Note first release cover with Raquel Welch, Lucy, and Farrah

After listening all the way through Far Away Eyes, I reminded myself: motivation follows action. So I stopped moping, dressed up for riding, got on the steel mountain bike, and headed for the hills. When the Whip Comes Down.

On the way out, I still felt the food bulk from last night. As I warmed up, though, and it was a mighty pretty day out there, I still felt a little sick to my stomach, but my brain-body machine began to feel good about the muscles burning up a few calories.

Feeling motivated to ride through the pass up ahead

Just when I got to the trail, I started to feel more connected to the bike. I had no particular trail, route, or destination in mind, I just knew that I had to get to the rocks and ride. I don't know if you have been out on a fairly rocky mountain trail lately on a steel mountain bike with no suspension, but it's a special kind of vibe you get. As in, the trail buzz resonates up through the frame, through your hands and feet, and into your muscles, a pleasant form of punishment. You make like a big spring, and absorb it all with your muscles, sinews, and bendy parts. As I felt the rhythm, I opened it up a little bit, which can feel pretty out of control since I was running smooth, skinny tires, but that's what I came for.

Having fun, keep going...

I rode out to the parking lot on the other side, took a big slug of water, then turned around. 

Sometimes people practice for the Grand Canyon by hiking up this steep antenna road/trail with packs on.
I wasn't sure what the plan was for the homeward leg, but then I felt it as I topped the pass: hammer, hammer, all the way home. Through four types of riding: rocky trail, road, gravel canal path, paved path, big ring at a good cadence, as much as I could take. The variety of a mixed ride like this one really appeals to me. I pedaled as fast and hard as I could. When my quads and knees started to burn, I upped the cadence in a slightly easier gear instead of coasting. I hit a hard pace that I thought I could keep up all the way. And you know what?

It hurt. I cranked. I pushed as hard as I could, and I felt like I hit some kind of sustainable pace that was faster than I thought I could go for that far. I wheeled into my driveway with a clear mind, not feeling too bad about the food last night, and feeling a kind of balance and peace from ten miles of hammering. All the way home. I have to do that again soon. Maybe without a feast for marathoners weighing me down, though. Get up. Go ride.


Friday, January 14, 2011

That's a Friday Bicycle Commuting Sunset Right There

Sweet lady of the evening skies that's amazing

Friday and the sky was on fire. Get up. Go ride.


Surreal Juxtapositions In My Bike Lane

There's a lot going on here

For your consideration on Friday, scene from the bike lane, from the lower left, going counter-clockwise: a bronze sculpture called Passing the Legacy, a giant blue inflatable beer bottle, Christmas decorations, a very ornate decoration on a parking garage at a shopping mall, Camelback Mountain, native tree used for landscaping, the corner of the ceiling/roof over the bridge just downstream from the Soleri Bridge and Plaza, then, back around the bottom and in front of the beer bottle, a crowd barrier fence against...the canal barrier fence. The aftermath of the BCS Bowl party. There's also a football field-sized patch of turf they put down just behind the beer bottle, just for the party. I was going to mention the TV series Hoarders in conjunction with this photo, but now it reminds me more of The Twilight Zone. Or perhaps The Outer Limits. Check it out, that was some good TV.  I think the only things missing from this scene are Metal Elvis and a drug store. Man, do I need a long ride. The weekend: it is your oyster. Get up. Go ride.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Preparation: Short Bars, and Stopping vs. Punctures

Fixed, with short bars.

Some people have been blogging about handlebars recently. This bike locked up at the rack is an example of shorter bars, although certainly not the shortest possible, by far. I've seen some with straight little stubs barely protruding past the sides of the stem.

My personal preference, and I state it only as such and not as some normative, prescriptive, or snide judgment, but rather just what I am comfortable with myself while riding, is for brakes. You know, for stopping. I understand the principles of reducing speed on a fixed gear and it doesn't matter to me, I would still prefer brakes. For myself. Ride whatever works, though, and I do harbor a secret desire to ride fixed, at least to see what it's like.

What interested me about this bike, though, beyond what I have already mentioned, was the tires.

Conti Ultra Gatorskins front and rear! I love those tires. To me, they demonstrate a certain level of caution and preparation, in the sense of choosing tires which are not cheap, which are durable, and which are excellent for both riding and for durability in the city, and similar environments rife with tire-poppers and pokers.  Also the lock: not only a perfect match for this bike, but also a fine lock job, compared to most of the cable through the front wheel jobs I usually see.

So I suppose what I'm saying is, this bike embodies a certain conceptual tension, which might either be mere contrast, or perhaps cognitive dissonance, or perhaps a graceful two-wheeled dialectical synthesis of whimsy and caution. If a choice had to be made, I think I would choose stopping with brakes over tire puncture resistance and durability. For myself. All I would need to try out this mode is to pick up a cog and a lock ring, flip my rear wheel around, and go for what I am certain would be a bruising and blog-worthy spin. But I think I would keep the brakes to keep things under control. Get up Go ride.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Happier by Bicycle

Happier by bicycle. Now w/green balloons, too!

Sometimes the photo just says it all. Get up Go ride.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Another Side of Arizona (with a little NM thrown in for chills)

That's cold. -27C is another way to say it.

We drove up north in the middle of a cold snap and snow storm, and I grabbed some pictures along the way. It was -17F in Gallup, NM, and there was lots of snow, so I was out playing with the kids in the yard, mostly sliding on the snow which was very powdery in the cold temperatures. I'm not used to that low a temperature. It's freaky cold. Since my mind couldn't really grasp it, I couldn't really perceive it, you know? 

Another problem with cars: I had concerns mine would even start in the morning when it was so cold. Fears of being stranded in a cold place. I've experienced -43F at the Ice Lantern Festival in Harbin, China, but that was a long time ago, and I have spent the intervening years in Phoenix, where such temperatures just sound like pure fiction. 

A great rest stop sign, you must admit

Cholla Power Plant, a massive coal-burning enterprise, belching steam into the cold cold air.

After a snowstorm, just south of Flagstaff. That's Mt. Humphreys and the San Francisco Peaks.

I appreciate being able to drive a couple of hours to experience a very different climate. This time of year, though, I am glad to be back in the Valley of the Sun, hiking and biking in a t-shirt in January. We all had fun in the snow, but -17F! Although when you're running, sliding, and smashing each other with chunks of snow, you don't notice it much. Get up. Go ride.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Microadventure Bike to Hike Trail 8A in Phoenix

A rocky section of trail 8A in Phoenix

I had a couple of free hours on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, so I set out on a microadventure to ride my bicycle to the 8A trail head, and then to hike up to the bench and back down again. This not-very-taxing outing fits my definition of microadventure well: it's not something I do very often (I think I've only done it once or twice before), it's a decent workout (60+ minutes of moderate cardio), but doesn't require much in terms of preparation, planning, or special equipment. I grabbed a bottle of water, put on my trail shoes, and hopped on my bicycle. Regarding the previous sentence: if I could arrange in life to have that constitute my daily preparation for action, I would consider myself surrounded by the golden light of perfection.

A quiet walk on a rocky desert trail seemed in order today. To contemplate.

There are some much more serious workout hikes nearby: Piestewa Peak is just up the street, and Camelback Mountain is also within riding distance. Those quad-burners are planned for microadventures this winter, too. A huge advantage to biking to all of these is parking. Piestewa is probably the best in terms of car parking capacity, although some of the lots involve a bit of a hike to the hike, and it is an extremely popular and crowded trail. Camelback, at least the Echo Canyon trail, has almost no parking near the trail head. All are ideal for a bicycle: ride up to the trail, lock to a sign, giggle quietly in the general direction of the people sitting in their idling vehicles waiting for a parking spot, hike. This seems like an ideal setting for a bike rack, by the way, although this sign works great, too. I noticed that a couple of those other signs like the one behind it pull right out of the ground, though, so those, not so much.

Even here, the white Prius stalks me. Not today, my menace, not today.

Many people refer to this as a Fishhook barrel cactus. Not sure if that's an official name, though.

A small platoon of barrel cactus marching down a hill.

Wild life!

A short uphill section.

The white rock, sort of a landmark on this hike. I've stood in its shade on a hot day to cool down.

A few saguaros, and some of the hikers. It was not crowded, though.

One picture of the streets on the way there: flash flood depth marker in Cudia Wash.

Pollution and dust in the air over the city. It's hazy, but the air quality was actually pretty good today.

A successful microadventure it was. The picture above looks pretty polluted, but actually, according to the EPA site Air Now which I check regularly, it was garden variety haze, and overall we were in a "green" status today. I had hoped for a picture postcard clear day to show you, but then on the other hand it's not the evil brown cloud of nitrous oxides, PM2.5 particles, and ozone that you sometimes see, so I'm not complaining. In fact, I'm looking out at all those mountains in the haze, and contemplating the next no-planning, no-fuss microadventure. The definition of which is pretty flexible for me, although will probably typically include two crucial steps, in order to at least approach the golden light of perfection. Get up. Go ride.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Mirror Hax

Rotary tool used to put zip-tie sized holes into the back of a small adjustable mirror

Zip ties through back of mirror. They will flatten out when I tighten them.

Mirror in place at corner of trekking bars.

View in mirror, showing hand clearance

As soon as I saw this $1.99 adjustable wide-angle mirror, I imagined this hack. It is mounted on a pivot, so is adjustable somewhat, within the limits of the case. So I mounted it loosely and went for a road test, then tightened it once I found the central location. With a wide angle, it is only informative, not definitive, since Objects in Mirror are Closer Than They Appear, as we have all learned, which means I'll probably still glance over my left shoulder to confirm, but I feel this may be able to augment visibility in a blind spot. This hack is possible on the trekking bars because this section curves just the way I needed it to mount a mirror, and I don't typically use this area for a handhold, either. From a visibility perspective, a helmet mirror is probably superior, but in my commute routine, my helmet gets banged around some after I take it off, and I don't want to mess with that very much. I'll see if this placement actually works in practice at all. Only one way to do that, though. Get up. Go ride.