Bike Commute Redux

I had tried my hand at bike commuting but never committed to it.  Just the occasional attempt now and then. When we got down to just one car an opportunity presented itself.  Something that could have been a setback turned into an opportunity.

Two years ago we had an old Toyota Corolla which was a fantastic car, and what was then a new Toyota Rav.  The Corolla burned oil, and had certainly seen better days.  My wife used it for her job which requires her to spend most of her day driving from one home to another, from one appointment to another, as part of her work as a parent educator.  All city driving.  But, it was a beater car with dints and dings, and the kind of car that you didn’t care if somebody dented it some more.  Which did happen.  And it certainly was not the kind of care that somebody would break into.  It was also reliable until it just wasn’t anymore.  When our mechanic informed us that it was time for a new engine we knew it was time to put it down.  What to do?

She asked me if we should go car shopping and I suggested that we try car pooling instead.  So she inherited the Rav. On Tuesday and Thursday when I went in late I would ride my bike.  Or I would have her drop me off sometimes and I would hike home.  However, this last May I decided to try my hand at bike commuting, and with one week to go I only caught a ride with her for one and a half trips to work. One day both ways, and one day I walked home.

I had ridden my bike to work a time or two before, but could never gather the courage to be regular about it.  It is pretty hard to roll out of bed in the morning, especially when it is cold, and ride 5 or 6 miles to work.  I decided to post pictures from my ride the day before yesterday.

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The pictures are looped but in order. The first picture in the series is my bike in the garage as I prepare to leave, then outside on the drive next to the Rav, and ends with a picture of my closet at work.  Two things that make this whole project possible is that about two thirds of the ride is on the Katy Trail so I don’t have to deal with cars, and I have that closet at work. It is a small closet and kind of rough but it gives me a place to keep clothes to change into.  I have about six pairs of paints, and as many shirts.  Two pairs of shoes .

My normal ride is 33 minutes there and 33 minutes back.  Just this week a main section of the trail was closed off for several months while four old bridges are replaced. So I have to make a detour.  Most of it riding next to traffic.  It makes it 6 instead of 5 miles and includes a pretty big hill.

In some future posts I want to review my evolving gear closet, and discuss what I have learned.  I love using the bike. I hardly drive anymore which is fine with me.  Driving has lost its allure with the demise of REAL super cars.  Like the 40 Dodge Magnum, GTO, GTX, the Shelby Mustangs!  It saves money, and it is free exercise.  So now I don’t have to worry about finding time to exercise.  I have to in order to get to work and then get back home.  I miss running but this is a fun, and practical, replacement.

I would love to hear from anybody who commutes, and how they handle things.  Gear, dealing with weather, and dealing with traffic.  I will be sharing what I am learning.

 

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Katy Trail Trip Revisited & Knee Problems

Bent but not broken I ventured back out onto the Katy Trail this past June, and lived to tell the tail.  Here is some photographic proof:

On this solo trip I spent the night in Hartsburg Missouri and then came back the next day.

I do not think I am sticking with the trailer, but I need to try it on my new touring bike to make sure.

Knee Woes

Well, running ugly got ugly.  At least for my left knee  I could probably count on my fingers, maybe without having to use the toes, how many times I ran last year.  I tried it again the week before last and I made two miles with no problems.  I could have ran a lot faster.  I laid off for a day or so and thought I would try it again.  My left knee kept bothering me a bit but I decided to give it a try.  Maybe it was the weather (that would be the denial kicking in).  I did not make it fifty yards.  My knee is now much better.  Biking, walking, and stairs don’t seem to bother me.  I did some boxing bag work last night and that was fine.  Weight lifting is fine. For being 60 I think that is good enough but I sure miss running.

Did running cause that knee problem? No.  I think not.  I did martial arts for  years and my kicking leg was my left leg, and it has “nagged” me for  years.  Little tweaks hear and there.  Hyperextending it with kicking, and maybe aggressive stretching, did it.  That I am sure of.

If, and until, I have to get a knee replacement I am most likely done with running and maybe a new knee wouldn’t even help.  The pain is very tolerable.  I just want to retain mobility.

Getting Ready for Bike Camping 

Why not integrate fitness into a lifestyle?  If you are going to camp backpack or bike instead of driving. I purchased a Burly trailer for my bike for camping, and it is time to use it.  No excuses.  Time to hit the road with it.  No more lollygagging.

I thought that the trailer would be easier than having a bunch of overloaded  panniers on my bike. Since I’m going camping next week with my son-in-law  I decided to go on a training ride tonight.  I will take another one or two rides with it before we leave next Monday.  Next week is my spring break.

 I read a bunch of books about people who rode cross-country and a good number of them used a trailer. I figured if they could do it so could I, and then I found some people online that were traveling across whole continents that had the very  same trailer. The trailer was also cheaper than new panniers as well as more racks, and I think they have less balance issues.

 I’ve been on a couple of errands with the trailer but nothing over maybe a quarter of a mile. The trailer was attached to my wife’s Diamondback comfort bike,  and I would go to the store and the the recycle center Both near my house. Tonight I switched it over  to my hybrid, packed it up with camping gear,  and took off.  Actually it was easier to pull than I thought it would be. That was a nice surprise.  Here is a picture at the halfway mark.  More to report later on my preparation, and the actual trip.

Book of the Week: Run Until You’re 100 by Jeff Galloway

This is another Jeff Galloway classic. I have written about one other book of his – he is a prolific writer.   It’s been around for a while but I finally decided to buy it a couple of weeks ago after about 6 or 8 months, maybe even longer, of nagging injuries. Also, it was after I had turned sixty. After reading the book I decided to finally give his method a try.

Jeff Galloway is a big proponent of the run walk strategy. It sounds kind of counterintuitive and I resisted it for about 2 years now although I’ve recommended it to other people. I just didn’t think it was for me. But after turning 60, and after those nagging injuries I referred to earlier left me sidelined, unable to run, I decided I needed to give it a serious try. I committed myself to one week of running and walking. The results were surprising and dramatic.


Not only was I able to run without injury or nagging aches and pains, I ran faster. I trained with a Polar heart monitor, and I discovered something pretty amazing things from the data. For one thing I ran dramatically faster. I’ll be posting some of the screenshots this week from my app  but it was pretty amazing. What was also amazing is how my heart rate responded with this run-walk method as compared to when I usually run. It’s my belief, and I’ll discuss it in another post, that the run-walk method not only reduces injuries and lets you run faster, it mimics high intensity interval training (HIIT)!

When I got back into running several years ago I entered several 5k races and some 10k events. I’ll tell you a secret that I haven’t written.   There were these guys that would run past me, and them  I would pass them latter on while they were walking. However, after that, when I was tiring, they seemed to get stronger and they would pass me again.  Often  I wouldn’t be able to get in front of them that one last time before they crossed the finish line ahead of me. My guess is they were using the Galloway method. Well, God willing, I’m going to be using that method this summer for some upcoming races. I’m especially looking forward to the Show Me State games.

I am a believer. I think I will be using the Galloway method for the rest of my running career.  The injuries really are down, my times are better than they would be otherwise, and I think it will keep me running longer.  This method may not be for  younger runners, but for this sixty year old it is the way to go.  Better than sitting on the porch.

 

Book of the Week – The Barbell Prescription: Strength Training Over 40

As we age we lose strength.  When strength goes so does mobility and balance as well as an increase  of other unpleasantness.  Through the typical bad diet and inactivity we also approach what is called the sick aging phenotype. Although we’re unable to reverse the aging process we are able to mitigate it to a great deal. We’re able to do some things which help us to live longer and better with much more quality of life. If that sounds like something you’re interested in, and you’re over 40, this is the book for you.

This is a howto book on how to get stronger using just five or so basic exercises. Barbell exercises such as the squat, deadlift, press, and bench press.  It’s based on research, and experience. It is an outgrowth of the Starting Strength approach by Mark Rippetoe.

Order the book.  Spend a week or so reading it cover to cover, and then think about how you might implement the program. I have found it to be effective.  One serious consideration though.  You must know how to perform the exercises precisely or you will get injured. I suggest a personal trainer. I am calling one today.

Closing thoughts.  At 60 years of age I want to remain as healthy and active as I can.  I also want to do it in an intelligent, empirically driven, fashion. I really think this book offers that.   But, the barbell prescription is powerful medicine.  Use it with care.

Evening Bike Ride

Surly Cross Check on the New Trail Bridge

I took an hour ride after work today.  Beautiful night, great workout weather, and wonderful fall trees.  I rode the Surly!  Starting to love it, but the stock  brakes are HORRIBLE. Is it just the pads? Worse than a tandom I had, which vastly  improved with just a brake pad upgrade. My bike shop is moving 100 yards from my house so that problem will get solved soon.

As you can see Fall is beautiful here in the Midwest.

I arrived him as it was getting dark. Commuter traffic is so dangerous here. One car turned tight toward me as I was making a left, and they were making a right, off of a residential side street.  That stretch is treacherous, and especially so during rush hour when when it corresponds with dusk.

Safety First

I love the new battery powered LED lights.  Finally bike lights worth the money.


Book of the Week: Life Is a Wheel

Bruce Weber is currently an  obituary writer for the  New York Times, a best selling author,  and an avid bicyclist.  Life Is a Wheel: Love, Death, Etc., and a Bike Ride Across America is a memoir wrapped around, in, and through his second solo bicycle trek across the United States at the age of fifty-seven.   Out of the four books I have read about cyclist riding cross country this is by far the most introspective.   Some readers might not enjoy the diversions where he examines his personal life, but those diversions seem to add heft, and context to the saga.  Kind of a peak under the hood.  As a matter of fact, it was something I found lacking in some of the other books which did not go too far into the personal circumstances that led them to make such an effort.

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After reading four books in this genre I have some basic observations to make. Most people that take the time to ride across the United States seem to enjoy the social aspect of the effort. This is even true for those who ride solo.  They have significant encounters with people who offer them advice about where to stay, eat, or what roads to take (good and bad but mostly good it seems).  Many arrange meetings with friends, or family members who come out to visit them for a day or so on their trip.  Perfect strangers offer them room and board, and they take them up on it.  They are not necessarily superior athletes. And, they all seem to have at least one close call with drivers who resent their presence, and encounter dangerous conditions where under heavy traffic, they find themselves riding on a rode, or bridge,  with no shoulder.  They took days off.  Sometimes two.  My last observation is that riding cross country, from one coast to the other, is well within the wherewithal of the average person. If my health holds up, and I can find the time I want to do it.

How long does it take?  According to AdventurePossible.com most people try for 5-6 hours per day, and cover about 70 miles per day.  Times listed for the trip, which varies by route and other factors, listed on the site ranged from 62 to 80.  My own estimate is that time in the saddle would be from 70 to 90 days.  According to the Adventure Cycling Network they have 30 routes mapped out ranging from 400 miles for just under a week, the Atlantic Coast at 2615 miles, and across the United States at about 4230 miles.

If you are contemplating suchh a trip AdventurePossible.com says that most people try for 5-6 hours per day, and cover about 70 miles per day.  Times listed for the trip, which varies by route and other factors, listed on the site ranged from 62 to 80.  My own estimate is that time in the saddle would be from 70 to 90 days.  According to the Adventure Cycling Network they have 30 routes mapped out ranging from 400 miles for just under a week, the Atlantic Coast at 2615 miles, and across the United States at about 4230 miles.  a long bike trip, or just want a little inspiration or a good read, this is a book I would recommend.  I would also like to take a moment to remind readers that I recommend any book I review.  If I did not like the book, and get something significant out of it, I don’t write about it.

So, are you interested?  I recommend AdventurePossible.com as a must read.  They have a lot of good, practical, advice.  Also, go to your local library to find books about people who have done it, as well as online for the blogs and web sites of people who are doing it now – even as we speak.