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.


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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.

Best Ugly Shoes Ever

At first I had runner’s knee on the left leg, and that took me out for about 6 weeks. Then I had plantar fascitis on the right foot, and that took me out for about another 2 months. For a while I even had both. I will be 60 in December. It happens.  This is a short post about how I recovered.

For the knee I went to an orthopedic Sports Specialists who gave me the exercises that I needed.   I also found out that it would help if I would shorten my stride.   I kept it under advisement because I had to recover from the plantar fascitis before I could run.

Then my research told me that I needed zero lift shoes for the plantar fascitis.  Also, that it would probably help my knee as well. I happened upon the Altar brand and purchased a pair of them. Probably the most comfortable shoe I’ve ever had. Without a doubt the ugliest. Judge for yourself from the picture below. I also learned that if I landed on the ball of my foot rather than the heel it would be easier on my foot – I was a heel  striker. Gradualy my foot begin to get better after my knee did. I was able to walk some, and then do a little jogging.  Now a little running. 

Slowly but surely I put it all together. Surprisingly I found it easy to convert my stride from a long one to short quicker ones, and discovered that with  zerolift shoes, I was naturally landing on the ball of my foot. Sometimes I have to concentrate to make this happen, but it seems natural.  I have had some practice race walking doing that  kind of stride. The shorter, quicker, strides are much faster for me than the longer stride. Just as they are in race walking.   They are certainly easier on my knees and foot. God willing I will be running a 5k on Thanksgiving.

Cycle Safety

Just a short rant on safety and bicycling.  I plan a few more, but this one is about carrying pepper spray on my commute.  Why?

I ride about one mile on lazy residential back roads to the trail.  Vehicular traffic is heavy but manageable.   Then it is onto the trail system that, unfortunately, has many people who use the trail that either do not leash their dog, or long leash it to the point that their beloved pet, that would never hurt anybody, lunges at you as they chortle in loving parental delight at the escapades of their beloved rascal.  Usually pit bulls.  Then there is the beautiful park that has been taken over by a pretty rough crowd (one guy walks around with a 12 inch hunting knife strapped to his leg), where an acquaintance was assaulted, on a walk through with friends, ending up with a chipped tooth.  The same place where a group of angst filled fun loving teenagers did not want to make way for me and stared daggers at me for disturbing their delinquent repose.  Oh, and if you are into the crack scene you can scratch that itch there too.  There have been other tense moments.  Also, the trail system is not well patrolled and there have been instances of assault and one sexual assault just last week.  It is not a total disaster, but it has the potential, to be. By the way,  there is a short bypass to that park so I don’t even ride through it anymore.  I also make it a point to warn people, usually students from the University of Missouri, not to continue their run through it either.

A few days ago I happened I meet a friend on the trail whom I had not seen in about a year (he has not been riding because a car hit him about five months ago in a parking lot – I will be dealing with cars/trucks a bit later on down the line) and I noticed he had a pretty large can of pepper spray strapped to his bike.  He told me his own war stories.  What to do?

That night I went straight to Amazon.  There I found this product:

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So now I ride back and forth with pepper spray strapped to my bike and still feel out gunned.

So now I ride back and forth with pepper spray strapped to my bike and still feel somewhat vulnerable.

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It is just a regular canister of Sabre pepper spray in a velcro holder.  Is this overdoing it?  I hope I am not becoming “that guy,” but I don’t wanna be that victim. Oh, and my friend?  In his pannier he carries a .357 magnum.  Missouri is sometimes like the wild west.  No kidding.

Weekly Book Review: Across America by Bicycle

Across America by Bicycle:  Alice and Bobbi’s Summer on Wheels, was published by Terrace Books in 2010.  Two friends decided after they retired to ride together across America, from the West to the East coast.  The women were experienced cyclist who had bicycled rather longish trips before, but this was, by far, their longest effort.  They had a web site but it is now down, and the domain is up for sale.  But, the book is still available.  Why should you read it?

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First of all this is an inspiring story  of two women who took on an awesome challenge and completed it.  It is an inspiring and hopeful book.  The book talks about how their already close friendship became more solid, and the many helpful people they met along the way.  As a matter of fact, the people they met along the way  who helped them or just had some kind of impact no matter how fleeting, are a major theme in this book.  Also, this is my third book in this genre (books about people who bike across the United States), and that is  a surprisingly common theme in all of them so far.  In the upcoming weeks you will hear more about the other two books.

If you are contemplating a long ride, solo or with somebody else, this is a book for you to read.  The antidotes, and stories they tell provide wise insight.  They were smart, well prepared, but also flexible.  They camped some, stayed sometimes with people they met along the way, but also used hotels or other lodging.  The book has a lot of explicit, and implicit, advice to give anyone thinking of undertaking such a ride including a whole appendix about what each of them carried on their trek.  There is even an appendix that provides a detailed packing list, down to what went where, which provides an example of two good templates for anyone to start with.  One packed more weight than the other, but they were both rather frugal about the ounces they carried.

My Bicycle Commute Home

Today I decided to document my ride home from work.  It was a beautiful fall day.  So, this is just a picture essay. The pictures start outside the building where my office is, and then end about a quarter mile from my house.  There is also one picture of me – for the record.

I am so glad I took these photographs.  It helped me to appreciate the incredible trail network we have here in Columbia, Missouri, and it made me notice the beauty and diversity of my ride home.  Columbia is one of the top 50 bicycle cities in America according to Bicycle Magazine.  For good reason.  Also, for once I paid attention.

NOTE:  I just updated this.  The slideshow was not working so I made a quick change – now the pictures are just presented in order.

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Sunday Ride on the Katy Trail 

First long ride in my Surly Cross Check. After 17 years on my trusty Schwinn hybrid it was an adjustment, but things are looking up. From straight bars to drop bars will take awhile. A great bike, but the stock brakes on this 2009 bike are atrocious.  The new ones have brakes that are simply outstanding.  If anyone from Surly reads this please take pity and send me a replacement set!

On that ride my son in-law and I rode about 27 miles, roundtrip  from McBain heading West past the famous old railroad tunnel in the river town Rocheport.   Several miles outside of Rocheport we scouted a camping site before heading back.

We were on the Katy Trail.  A rails-to-trail project here in the Show-Me-State that runs over 240 miles parallel to the mighty Missouri.  From one end to the other, and it is the longest such project in the United States. I have hopes of riding the whole thing in 2017.

Here are some pictures I took along the route out.

This last picture below  is the state champion Burr Oak which is somewhere between 350 to 400 years old.  During the short while we were there the stately tree received nearly a dozen visitors.