Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wheels Within Wheels

Look, it's a tiny 4.3mm wrench! What could it be for? Low torque, I hope.

Completely coincidentally, some big, lightweight boxes arrived at my door the same day limom posted about his shiny new hoops. I have been looking for a road wheel upgrade for a while, out of curiosity more than anything else: when you read wheel reviews, they often sound so hyped up that it's hard to judge if there would be any advantage at all in reality. So, rather than dropping the cost of a new bicycle for a really expensive set of wheels, I have been keeping my eyes open for a solid set that would represent a step or two up from the  Bontrager Race wheels that came with my bike, without breaking into the kids' college funds, or setting expectations that I will now rocket up mountains, or sprint like a top fuel dragster, with the added stiffness, wind-slicing aerodynamics, and reduced rotating mass.

After shopping around, I purchased the Shimano Ultegra WH-6600 wheels, which looked like exactly what I was looking for, maybe except for the weird spokes-- butted bladed straight-pull spokes with 4.3mm nipples and fastened at the hub instead of the rim. Oh yeah, also low spoke count 16/20, which I will admit runs counter to my deep-seated love and confidence in higher spoke counts. With that, though, these wheels did look like exactly the kind of step-up upgrade I was looking for, so I bought. Still waiting for the new tires to arrive though, so today only pictures for the blog, and some spinning in the truing stand to see how they came out of the box. Get up. Go ride.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Dude That Can't Be Comfortable

Low profile pedals

This is the first in a new series that I call "Dude, that can't be comfortable." It's possible, though unlikely, that the owner of this bike has some sort of prosthetic foot or leg that this actually works with. More likely, the pedal platform just came off, and the owner didn't replace it, figuring, "it'll still ride". I guess it will, but dude, that can't be comfortable. Get up. Go ride.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What is Tough, What is Strong?

Resting on bare cement next to a canal, guarding against predators, propagating the genome: tough and strong

There's a current television commercial that would have us believe that it is tough, or strong, or macho, to kill a cricket with a bow and arrow if the cricket's chirping happens to be disturbing your sleep in the woods next to your prized truck. I'm not suggesting I've never killed an insect that was bothering me, just objecting to the portrayal of such a senseless act on television as the epitome of "tough" or "strong". A couple of alternatives I would offer for better examples of toughness and strength follow.

1) Mama duck taking care of about 14 ducklings on the canal bank. Damn, I would be resting, too.

2) Lynda Wallenfels becoming the first woman to complete the Arizona Trail 300 mile self-supported mountain bike race, and winning it at the same time, being only one of four to finish it, out of 22 starters. It's a great story of strength, and toughness, check out the version on The Outside Blog, as well as on Lynda's blog, 2 Epic. She is 5'2" tall, weighs 104 pounds, and rode the 300 miles of wicked trails in three days, four hours, and five minutes. With two possibly broken fingers. Incredible, awe-inspiring, ass-kicking. Her personal setup for the race is listed here, with more photos.

Those are examples of tough. Those are examples of strong. Pickup driving woodsmen killing crickets with arrows for their chirping got nothing. Get up. Go ride.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Boundary Art in the Middle of a Desert Metropolis

More photos from the post near the DBG and Crosscut Canal

Papago Park is a strange and wonderful place, an island of desert landscape in the middle of a vast metropolis covered in cement and filled with cars and people. And yet, here's this park, which, along with a few other similar gems like the Phoenix Mountain Preserve and South Mountain, to name a couple, offers a brief but intense respite. This monument has always seemed to me more like a marker for the boundary between sprawl and almost-wild, rather than a border between two cities. During the daytime, it's calm, quiet, with hikers, families picnicking, the occasional cyclist w/ camera. But I have stayed a while after dark in this park on many nights, near the less-traveled parts, and I'll tell you: the coyotes come out here after dark, to chase the jackrabbits, and their yipping (tally ho old boy, the hunt is on) is chilling, but also very welcome. You're crossing a boundary here. It's not a true boundary, but more like a model boundary, a reminder of what is real, and out there. Love it. Get up. Go ride.


Monday, April 25, 2011

There's An Achin in My Heart Called Summer

Barrel cactus rest stop (Bip: no suspension, skinny hard tires. Rock rocking ride)

There's an achin in my heart called summer. At certain moments, the years pile up. At certain moments, I am struck by the deep feeling that huge chunks of time have passed, families of friends and acquaintances have grown and started families of their own, graduated, gotten married, procreated, in some cases lived and died. Thoughts drift back, way back, to long-ago summer nights, songs on the radio, connections and diversions. A collection of small things, and momentous moments, all past. This can feel like a weight, if you know what I mean. For me, what's called for at moments like that is a good hard ride. I pointed Bip at the mountains, and we rode. Theme song for the day: Babe I'm Gonna Leave You.  

When your bike is called "Singletrack" you have a certain obligation

It was Easter Sunday afternoon, and the roads, paths, and trails were quiet. I actually had Trail 100 all to myself for a long time. I felt in very good shape, riding up and down the rocky hills was incredibly fun. Since I combined the trail ride with a ride to and from the trail, ride to the ride, it was a good three hours or so out spinning. But the Spring weather felt too good. What I mean by that is, the temperature and the breezes were perfect, so this ride, despite the distance, the rocks, the big ring and all, didn't quite take it all out of me like I wanted it too. It didn't quite banish the achin in my heart like a 110F summer ride on the same trail does. Those are the rides that empty me and fill me. Blastin down these rocky hills when the summer comes along is what quiets those old stories down.

I'll be back my tasty track, when the summer comes along

When I was done with the mountains, I tried to burn off the rest of the ache on the city streets that roll down hill from the mountain, fast as I could go. Dreamy Draw Drive runs downhill from the rusty foot bridge down to Glendale Ave. Before that, the foot path from the pedestrian bridge over the 51 freeway runs downhill to the rusty foot bridge. I pedaled both as fast as I could, trying to burn off that ache, bending low to beat the wind, spinning like mad. Like mad. But it turns out I need the assistance of the summer heat to really complete the job. So there's still kind of an achin in my heart, called summer. The heat, my beloved burning summer, will be here soon, another month or so. Until then, more riding hard, more listening to old songs. Get up. Go ride.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Trees Trees Trees Ya!

And the Palo Verde trees were all like POP!!!

Bee heaven

An arch of native mesquite to shade my path

I did a quick drive up north of Phoenix this week, and noticed that the Palo Verde trees have all discussed the matter, and reached the conclusion that it is time to explode in yellow blossoms. The freeway was lined for miles with trees like this, in full yellow glory, exploding with spring. It's a tree flower riot in progress. It's so bright that it is surreal, you look at it and doubt it really can be so intense. The bees seemed to be really enjoying themselves when I took that middle picture--the buzzing was loud and exuberant. And I think that after living here in the desert for all these years, I have finally figured out the difference between palo verde, mesquite, acacia, and creosote. Now just when I say that, I'm going to be out hiking some time and not be able to tell which is which. Anyway, I do know how to find a few edibles in the desert, and how to deal with prickly pear fruit's tiny spines, so I am not completely useless as a desert botanist anyway. Currently, however, the bright yellow flower explosions are not exactly conducive to logic or reason, but more like dancing in the sunshine. If you see me standing next to my bicycle dancing in the sunshine, I suggest you not judge, but rather set down your bike, too, and join me. Listen to the bees: they know what time it is. Get up. Go ride.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Barbed Wire and Broken Glass for Good: A Tunnel is Born

Stop Right There

Way back in November, 2010 (seems like forever ago, doesn't it?), I posted about plans to bore / dig / blast / trench / hydro-drill a new tunnel under 7th Avenue in Phoenix at the multi-use path crossing along the Arizona Canal Diversion Channel (ACDC) in the form of a complete photo guide (please see). I recently discovered, by riding smack into this fence, that the project has begun! For a few months, we'll be riding / walking around this project, but when it's complete, there will be another feature making this already-good path even better.

Now, taking a step back, out of the street-level crossings the canal paths make, this one never seemed that bad to me, however: I usually cross at off hours or at night, not at rush hour, so it may be a different story during busier times of the day. Some examples of busier street crossings are Camelback Road, and Scottsdale Road, both of which can be either exercises in diverting to a marked crossing and waiting for two lights, or else, froggering across between cars.

You can see the barbed wire at the top of the fence. Diverting around the project requires crossing the canal on the street bridge, and taking the path on the other side. It seemed less used, though, with broken glass and other debris on the surface. Which took me back to my "carry a wisk broom to clean up path debris" idea. I did pick one up that snaps into an accompanying dust pan, but haven't been motivated to fabricate some sort of frame or rack mount for it yet. In any case, this wasn't a spot cleanup of a few pieces of glass, but rather a block or two of crap on the path that would need a push broom or even better, a Python S2000, to make it right. But I'm not complaining. This is barbed wire and broken glass for good. After the summer heat has passed, after the monsoons are done and we get our autumn on, there will be a new tunnel here. One more important element in the system to get you to do the needful. Get up. Go ride.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Forget the Wind

Forget the wind.

I turned into the homeward direction, and felt the full friction force of the stated 20-30 mph headwinds, like riding up a hill. Hills are not my favorite. Perhaps it is fortunate or wise that I chose to live in a place rich with flat rides, with the option to choose the hills, the "sky islands" in the desert they are called, if I feel the impulse to give due time to the hill climb. But hills generally remind me of headwinds, which are owed no due in my book. 

This headwind pushed against me, and it made me push harder against the pedals to keep even a moderate speed. Slower does not feel right. Harder does not feel right. I just want my homeward spin, my meditative evening trip, my easy ride. Easy gone when the wind blows in your face, JRA. Discouraged. Spin harder. Work home.

But this guy showed up again. He's making a habit of this absurd quest, seeking small heron fishy dinner treats where only giant sterile grass carp lurk, but I give him points for tenacity.  Who knows. Maybe something will float by. Something like a small silver fishy.

I decided to ride closer, get a better shot. He's been skittish before, but this time he let me coast up close. He didn't move, so neither did I. The wind rumbled my ears, ruffled his feathers. Still neither of us moved. So intent. Such focus. The s-curve of his neck, the graceful legs, the splayed toes across the cement. The rushing of water drowned out most of the other sounds. It was a moment: I was there, the wind was the wind but less intrusive or significant, the water rushed, the heron focused his laser intense gaze on fishies that would never come.

I left him to it. Yes, the air pushed against me all the way home, but I let it. I guess I worked harder, but I didn't sweat it. I forgot the wind. Somehow heron showed me how. Get up. Go ride.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Run Bunny Run

Bunny was just sitting in the middle of Lafayette Blvd looking around, so I stopped in the bike lane to watch him. It was a quiet, warm Phoenix Spring morning, with very light traffic, so I wanted to see what he would do. He did nothing but look around for a solid minute or so. Taking in the morning air I guess. Then that strong cyclist came flying around the roundabout and the bunny decided to run--straight in the direction of the cyclist. I was laughing so I kind of missed that sequence, which is a shame because she looked pretty photogenic (the cyclist, too), but the bunny made it, and ran back over my way. 

I was prepared to ride out in front of traffic to alert them to bunny's presence if needed, however, bunny seemed to be perfectly comfortable scampering in the street. I noticed his speed was just what was needed to avoid cars and bikes. I see him many mornings munching the green lawns, along with his brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, great aunts, grand parents, and neighbors, the quail family. Bunnies and bicycles in the street. 

Also: four kids cycling to school. For a few moments, the planet seemed to be spinning right. Get up. Go ride.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Statues of Fire to Nurture the Waters

Steel in the earth to nurture the air

Concrete and its cohorts have paved this desert valley and created a heat island that affects the weather. In places outside the city, it cools down at night in the summer, while the inhabitants of Phoenix Metro get to experience a relatively flat line of heat through the dark hours. Trees, green, and natural desert ground surfaces are all remedies for this, preferably native trees and plants that thrive in this unforgiving climate. 

I visited the "Tree of Life" sculpture by Marilyn Zwak over a year ago, and posted the video below of riding up to it. Since I was in the area, I wanted to check in on how it was doing, and how many leaves have been added to it. People who donate money to plant trees around Tempe Town Lake can gave leaves added into the trees to indicate their giving. I think a "One Speed:Go!" leaf would be cool. And since I was there, I took a few pictures.

Tree of Life

I don't think those cracks were there before...

And I was thinking, making a sculpture out of concrete to pay for trees, well that's like making a statue of fire to nurture the waters, or a vessel of earth to glorify the air. At first I had my doubts, but then I decided it was growing on me, co-opting a fundamental building material to raise money to plant trees. Although I suppose the construction and freeway industry could strike back with a vengeance by building wooden cement truck models to improve public relations, or perhaps a stucco and red tile roof factory out of saguaro ribs and mesquite beans. Kind of a Rose Parade with strict rules for using vegetable material to portray things which they are not, but could be. My keyboard could be made of frosting. My monitor of oil paints and gumdrops. And I've always had my suspicions about my cat. Here's the video. Get up. Go ride.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Enter the Hidden Gate: Walk or Bicycle to the Desert Botanical Garden

Tucked behind the bus stop, a bicycle and pedestrian-friendly path to the Desert Botanical Garden

On my guest post on Blooming Rock, I wrote "Yet, gems like the Desert Botanical Gardens, the LoPiano Mesquite Bosque in Tempe, the little waterfall at Rio Salado restoration area, these all have nearby cycle paths, with currently no signs and little or no connection with the surrounding area. On trails out in the desert, you see cairns to indicate places where trails continue, little piles of rocks to help out your route-finding." I have also mentioned once or twice on this blog that the great path along the Crosscut Canal, just to the east of the garden, has no signage or obvious connectivity with the garden, even though it runs right along the perimeter fence.

On Saturday, I found one of those good news/bad news situations: the good news is, there actually is connectivity via a sidewalk, a signed gate, and pathway that appears to be right up my alley, intended to be used by pedestrians and cyclists to access the garden, and it is marked with some MONSTER cairns. The bad news is, the gateway is somewhat hidden behind a bus stop, and as far as I can tell is only evident if you walk or cycle right up to it. The tie-in with the public transit system is nice. The lack of signed or obvious connectivity to nearby cycling routes is not, however, and confirms my concerns about route isolation in a previous post on the subject. You can get there from here. But, either you just have to be "in the know," or be willing to take an exploratory ride in a zone dominated by the automobile. In fact, this stretch of McDowell Road, for few miles running east from the photo above, has been a zone of car dealerships for years, which are all now in the process of closing down and relocating. A photo essay on them may make for a good "Urban Desolation" post in the near future.

What you find if you venture Beyond the Bus Stop
I did not know that tall piles of rock marked this trail when I made the cairns comment. These are part of a work called "Papago Park City Boundary Project" (1991) by Jody Pinto and Steve Martino. There's more of it to the west, and I'll post some additional photos of it this week. But this post is all about the hidden gate to the garden.

An awesome path to the garden, which one could call "happy," and another monster cairn

I actually found this path and gate coming from the garden itself, rather than from the bus stop side, so my path of discovery went in reverse from the order of photos in this post. I got there by riding down the Galvin Parkway bike lane, around the roundabout, and down the driveway into the garden through the parking lot. I went that way because I reasoned that if there was any connectivity to be had, I could find it by riding along the parking lot perimeter to try to find another way in. This logic turned out to be flawless, because it led to this discovery.

Oasis, the most exciting discovery: path, native plant shade, water, benches, signage, cactus. Wow!

At the end of this path, I found the little oasis pictured above, and was actually thrilled to come across it. It is perhaps the simplest, most wonderful little oasis spot I have come across, challenged only by the restroom/shade/water oasis along the Arizona Canal at Hayden Road in Scottsdale, and the one at Thunderbird Paseo Park. It's so simple, yet so vital. Look at the green arch, the sun-dappled shade, the native landscaping. A little less pavement would be welcome, I guess. I'll make this a destination on a summer ride when the temperature is in the one-teens, to illustrate its function in a hot desert land (although at 94F and 4% humidity, this mid-April day was not exactly cool).

Current signage at the critical juncture of McDowell Road and the Crosscut Canal path

Currently, this blank, sun-faded blue sign is all you get in terms of information or guidance at the junction of the Crosscut Canal path and McDowell Road. Well, this, and all the "clean up after your dog" signs. This blue sign can just be made out to say "CROSSCUT CANAL, constructed..". This is also, by the way, where the eastbound bike route stops going eastbound, and gives you a choice between riding through the zone of struggling auto dealerships ahead, or veering northbound or southbound along the canal path. Yet, if you turn away from this sign and ride a short distance along the sidewalk-path, you'll get to the Hidden Gate to the Desert Botanical Garden, and even to the oasis pictured above. I am a firm opponent of graffiti. I seriously dislike it. But man, this blank blue sign is crying out for some creative community guidance, isn't it? 

YOU ARE HERE. You can ride just about anywhere you want in the whole city from this point, if you know where to turn. And there's a happy path, with cool shade, benches, and water within a short distance, as well as a world-class botanical garden. How about EXPLORE: IT'S MUCH BETTER THAN IT LOOKS. Do not despair, visitor, for you CAN get there from here, in any direction you chose. Just do this. Get up. Go ride.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Can You Love a Place?

Place love: discuss

Defining love as a reciprocal emotional relationship between two sentient beings (thus admitting the possibility that I love my cat(s)), results in a difficulty: how is it possible to love a place? Can a place love back? Which naturally leads to questions about loving your bicycle, but we'll leave that for another time. Just questions to ponder on a quiet Saturday bicycle ride. Get up. Go ride.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lock Shaped Objects

Lock Shaped Object, got it on lock (not)

At work, I suggest to people that they not leave valuable things just sitting out on their desk, particularly not money, or mp3 players, or other easily sold things. So, in my book, no one should use a cable lock at a bike rack in a city because they are next to useless. Compared to the cost of even a cheap bike, a decent U-lock is very affordable, and offers much more security than a cable and lock like these, which is easily defeated. These lock shaped objects do nothing but lend a false sense of security. At least the one in the picture was carefully wrapped with electric tape. Get up. Go ride.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Traffic, A Poison Flower

The lovely, the fragrant, the very toxic oleander and its blossoms soften the view of the oncoming traffic for the bicycle commuter, don't they? Their dense leaves provide excellent shade, and whisper-hiss when the winds blow hard. The quail like to run around their bases. I've occasionally found humming bird and other nests deep inside these bushes. And they are true survivors in an arid place, drinking up all the water they can, then patiently waiting until the next watering, whenever it happens to arrive. I've posted this plant before, I know.

A bicycle commuter, smelling toxic flowers, looking at traffic. Some see dangers all around. I just see a pleasant Spring moment. Although I think I would wear sun screen if I had to wait on the bus bench every afternoon, facing the west like this. Get up. Go ride.


Monday, April 11, 2011

We're Turning The Corner Here

A place to pause to reflect on the moment

These flowers nearly pour onto the sidewalk as they hook your attention and ask you to pause here a moment to reflect on springtime and the changing of things that goes along with it, on the planet whooshing through space such that the days grow longer, warmer, and full of the promise of summer's blasting heat just around the corner. I would think the bees and humming birds would just spend Spring Break right here. Bzzzzz epic dude bzzzzzzz. And all but the anosmiacs may stand here with eyes closed and know what season it is. There were so many lemonade stands along my route today that I didn't need water bottles, just quarters. If only I had known. The week ahead is your overflowing flower box. Get up. Go ride.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Like An English Rain

Tasks for a Spring Rain

Woke up to a soft rain falling from a leaden sky this morning, pattering down for hours, somewhat unusual for Phoenix although not unknown in the Spring. This was my trigger to perform some routine maintenance: brakes, chain, bar tape, on Yasuko my daily commuter. The brakes and chain were the usual stuff, so I'll just briefly go over the latest bar taping.

Recently, limom mentioned Planet Bike comfort cork gel tape, which shows that great minds think alike, as I had recently purchased some for myself in preparation for either a) the day that the existing tape grew so gnarly that I had no choice but to replace it, or b) something else besides catastrophic failure, like a soft Spring rain, induced me to do some basic maintenance. Although I wonder what catastrophic bar tape failure would look like.

At first, I was considering leaving the old Cinelli cork tape on and just double taping over the top of it. Since it was the rain and not the gnarly that caused me to replace it, the tape was still in decent shape. I was considering double taping to see if that approach would make my massive gorilla-like paws more comfortable holding onto the bars. I seldom wear gloves on my commute, unless it's freakishly cold here, so two layers of tape seemed to be something I might want to try.

Checking around the inter-blogs, though, I came across a few people who suggested putting a strip of tape across the top of the bars, and taping over that. I gave that a try, using a strip of the old Cinelli tape across the bar, and winding the comfort cork gel tape over the top. The results look and feel good, better than the old single layer, which I had also put on a little unevenly, and I'll probably report back in a few weeks once I have had a chance to try out commuting with this set up.

Now, after maintenance, the rain has stopped, and the streets are starting to dry. The birds are singing. The bikes are tuned up. Hmmm, what would the next logical step be? Get up. Go ride.

UPDATE!! Now with wrapped bar picture!!!


Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday Multi-take

A simple composition may still induce repeated re-looks

I think it was the zip ties, along with the slightly tawdry, morning-after-the-party feel of this sign, that made me wheel around and take a picture of it. The first command seemed uncommonly obscure to me for a public sign in what was probably a crowded, party place. Don't what? Indeed, upon consulting the digital oracle which contains all knowledge and all truth, "don't over taste" doesn't seem to be used. Ever. 

Then there's the strange perspective of the black bird at the top of the picture. Didn't do that on purpose, he just showed up there. Probably hanging out on the gravel in the background, just the right place to come out looking like a miniature version of himself perched on the rail. I have a feeling he's an over-taster. I'm starting to believe I am. Well, it is the weekend, and if you're going to pick a time to over taste, that's probably the best one. You can always ride farther to balance things out. Get up. Go ride.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Use Alt Route

Use Alt Route

USE ALT ROUTE. OK, I think I will. The kind that rides on two wheels, goes past the tilting saguaro, just across the street from a quiet covered path. Quarter of a mile off the Arizona Canal. Across from the row of old old eucalyptus trees. The alt route: whirling feet and spinning sunshine to get me to work in the morning. Get up. Go ride.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spring Cleaning: Renounce Cringing

Acacia blossoms among last years seed pods

Time for spring cleaning. Old thoughts, disposed of like so many glossy magazines stoking desires for next year's lighter, more responsive, stiffer model. I will endeavor to speak truthful words. I will endeavor to speak helpful words. I will renounce cringing. I am currently reading Pay Attention, for Goodness' Sake: The Buddhist Path of Kindness By Sylvia Boorstein. Love it. An excellent guide to cycling in heavy traffic. G00g1e search for "renounce cringing" returned one hit prior to this post: that book. I guess a proper review would include a more explicit exposition of why I love it, or why I think it's an excellent guide to cycling in heavy traffic. Because it is spring cleaning time. Because the acacia trees are exploding in flowers. Since I rode my bicycle through a cloud of them swirling on a windy day, I hereby renounce cringing. The first step is right here. Get up. Go ride.