Friday, May 29, 2009

Dang it! A Forced Week Off

Because of what I mentioned earlier (childcare drop-off responsibilities) I had to take a hiatus from my riding into work. So, it's been a week and I feel like it's been a long month off. I would go into my garage and check the tires and look at the bike with disappointment. 

Nothing much going on this week other than trying to figure out what to do when it rains (much less snows). It's rained almost every day this week. I haven't gotten fenders yet, and I can't picture the Sequoia with them, so I'm not sure about taking the plunge into foul weather yet. I'll have to see how: 1)My fall/winter schedule will be like 2)If I can afford an old beater for a foul weather bike.  

Tuesday I felt a sense of pride as I filled up the first time in 2 weeks. It's strange now that I feel angry when I take the car to work, like I'm doing something wrong. 

And it seems it will continue through next week since my wife's aunt and uncle won't come back until June 9th, a whole other week!!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Day Three

Success!! Today was the third time of riding into work.

Weather: 60 deg F. Sunny with a headwind.
Time I left my house:  Late - 8.13am.
Time I arrived at work: 8:51 am
Distance: 8.21 miles
Avg. Speed: 12.7
Max Speed: 18.6
Time: 38 min.41 sec. 

Pre-game: My wife is home sick due to a possible virus at school (for those of you following the H1N1 news as it pertains to NYC schools, my wife’s school, PS 20, is on the DOH ‘watch’ list. Everyone and the parents think it should be closed, contrary to the Mayor and UFT President’s beliefs. There were 200 kids total sick this week, and more staff called in. My wife called in because she had felt weak and ran a slight fever. We’re all pretty angry at the decisions made, hopefully they close the school down and get to disinfecting!) Sooo, I was able to ride today, which was awesome, albeit, I had to leave late since she woke up later than usual.  I don’t mind, but I’d rather not make like I’m on a time trial on my way to work.

As I left, the traffic was a little heavier I guess since I left later – what a difference 13 minutes makes. 

Overall the ride was OK, there was a strong headwind at times, making the spinning difficult.  

On the way I was amazed at how many motorists accommodated me without incident. Kudos to you all!

As I got in, I let the guys downstairs know Danny let me park my bike in their garage. I hope it’s OK (and paranoid they will take it for a ride a la Ferris Bueller’s Day Off). I kind of liked locking the bike up, that way I don’t have to make any small talk (I was running late) since I had to change. I got to my desk 9:03am. Not too bad, I beat one coworker who drove in (but who’s keeping track? Yeah right!). Luckily, both bosses are out today. Which is good, being off the bike almost a week I can feel the difference. Just call me Old Man River.

Update: The Ride Home

Distance: 8.48 miles
Avg. Speed: 13.3
Max Speed: 20.9
Time: 38 min.15 sec. 
Total Commuting Miles: 50 miles

Warm on the way back- 80 degrees F. and no wind. I increased my avg. speed and my wife and kids were waiting for me at home on the front lawn. My wife said,"Wow, that was quick!" Picture me smiling.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Non-Essential Equipment for My Commute

Since my wife’s aunt and uncle are on their European vacation for the next few weeks, it’s left my wife and I to shift our schedules to bring either of our sons to a different caretaker/daycare each day of the week, and therefore, putting my commute via bicycle on hold for the time being. Dang it!

So I’d like to take this time not to whine but to talk about things surrounding my commute. For this post, I’ll be talking about a couple pieces of equipment that aren’t essential to one’s commute but to me, personally, are needed.

One piece of equipment that I’ve seen a few times when I used to run regularly, was Road ID. I got a 10%-off coupon in email and decided it was well worth the 18 bucks. My wife is always worried when I ran early in the morning and at night, even if I wore one of those reflective vests, she typically doesn’t trust any motorist during the twilight hours. So in an emergency, these Road ID’s are the perfect sort of ‘dog-tags’ if the worse does happen.

It shipped within a week and the service was great. I have the wrist band and it has my name, my city/state, my wife’s cell and home number, and finally, there is etched a cheesy “Train Hard, Train Safe” line as my quote. I know the folks in bike forums have far better ones:”Save My Bike First” or “If You’re Hot, Please Give Me Mouth to Mouth”. Road ID also come with interactive versions, where an EMT or whoever would look up the personal information on the web. They also have dog tags, shoe attachments as well as an ankle version. I keep mine at all times and am getting used to the feel of wearing them even when I’m not riding/running.

The other piece is my trusty Timex Ironman Triathalon Watch. I still have my CatEye computer, and it has great features, but I use the Chrono on my watch to give me a total trip readout, so I know my total time of when I leave my house right up until I get changed from the bathroom at work. I also use it at certain points of the trip when I’m thinking I’m making good time or not.  It’s also good when I step out for lunch and walk to a nearby store, and I time how long it takes on foot so I won’t have the wrath of my boss or my coworkers if I come back over my given hour break. It also has the cool ‘flix’ feature, which, when I put in ‘night mode’ I flick my wrist, and the indiglo light turns on for a few seconds. It takes a little practice, but it’s a nice ‘hand’s-free’ feature nonetheless.

I’m sure I’ll be adding other ‘non-essential’ gear posts in the future as I get crazier and crazier with the addiction that is

Friday, May 15, 2009

Day Two on the Bike to Work

Success!! Today was the second time of riding into work.

Weather: 59 deg F. Muggy and foggy. Looked like rain but should clear up later.
Time I left my house:  A little later than I scheduled- 8.03am.
Time I arrived at work: 8:40 am
Distance: 8.19 miles
Avg. Speed: 12.9
Max Speed: 21.8
Time: 38 min.0 sec. (shaved a couple minutes off from previous ride in)

Pre-game: My parents had the little one today and my wife took the older one to pre-school in Queens. I was debating whether to go since it looked like rain but the forecast said it would clear up. So after I packed up (today was business casual at work, so it makes it a little easier) I told my parents I was off. They’re always concerned, but they always are—isn’t that the bane of being a parent?

As I left, the traffic was a little lighter today and since I knew the route better, judging some critical intersections were easier and I was more confident. 

Overall the ride was OK, it was a bit muggy, and I was thinking,”It’s not even summer yet and this is kind of uncomfortable.” But with riding comes an even breeze. 

On the way I spotted a van with a flat, and normally I would stop in my car, but on a bike, I don’t believe there’s much I could do.

As I got in, an MIS tech noticed my helmet and asked if I ran in. I told her I rode in and she was amazed and happy that I was thinking of getting healthier. It’s good to hear positive reactions of support.

Later today, the accounting department accosted me in amazement:"What do you do when it rains? Where do you live again? Are you training for a triathalon??" It's kind of funny and strange that it's become the buzz today. 

One of the guys from Facilities I found out rides, so he offered for me to put the bike in the garage downstairs next time I ride in. It's by the loading dock and behind closed doors which is a great alternative to me locking it up to a tree (he didn't know it was my bike and was told it was some member or worse, one of the restaurant's employees next door who rides and is using our tree for locking up their bike).  He rides to NYC on some Sundays and down the Chelsea trail there and invited me to come when he goes. Fun to find a biker buddy at work!  Got to an MTA bike pass.

Update: The ride home was great. It was a little warmer, but got home quicker than the first time and before 6 pm which was my goal. I was taking the lanes more often and the cars were very accommodating. I averaged a little higher than before and will get data from my CatEye soon.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

First Ride Into Work!!

Success!! Today was the first time in, and actually, the first time on the bike. I’ll talk about the return trip on another post, this will describe my first trip coming in. As I continue this, I’ll have to see what I’ll add into as far as daily info (weather, traffic, wind, etc.) so as to make it a template for each ride. 

Weather: 55 deg F. and BEAUTIFUL. Hardly any headwind and no humidity. Perfect day to ride. It’s supposed to go up to 70 F.
Time I left my house:  A little later than I scheduled- 8am on the dot.
Time I arrived at work: 8:43 am
Distance: 8.22 miles
Avg. Speed: 12.2
Max Speed: 21.1
Time: 40 min.12 sec.

Pre-game: After my wife left with the kids (Wednesdays she takes them both into Queens to her Aunt and Uncle’s) I had to unpack my FedEx package I got from Performance Bike and went through my stuff.  It took some time to pack and separate, but it was probably 20 minutes total. In one pannier I had my bike stuff (locks, tool, tire lever, tube, pump) along with my lunch and water; on the other pannier I had my clothing. 

I have to say, these Banjo Brothers Panniers are the bomb, and highly recommend them (as it was on They’re like the black hole, I kept putting in stuff and it kept taking it. Although I have to see how much actual weight I have on the bike.  A couple things I forgot, my bananas and I have this strange feeling I left the garage door open (oops). I’m hoping I didn’t… and if I did, I hope my parents close it when they get there this afternoon. They watch the little guy tomorrow and Friday.

As I left, it took a little getting used to the clips (stock pedals) on the Sequoia and a few times on the ride I had to tighten/readjust the panniers as one side was a little heavier than the other. One of the clips came off from the bottom of the rack and I had stop momentarily, and I need to adjust later on the length of how far back I need them to go as my heels bumped the bags throughout the trip on several occasions. 

Overall the ride was pleasant. I took the easier/scenic route rather than my planned as it was easier to deal with traffic…and all my fears of taking the lane at some intersections were nothing as cars have been more than accommodating as well as cautious when I signaled and made appropriate eye contact. 

This bike rocks- it’s such a joy to ride and I’m so happy I got a road bike rather than a hybrid. The zertz inserts made the bumps nonexistent and I flew at certain sections. My legs are a little wobbly but that because I haven’t been riding in so long. It's great the Sequoia has the handlebars for a good upright position as well as the drop for more aero type of position. Also has the other brake levers on top for ease of braking. 

My helmet (Giro Transfer) was light and airy, which was great since I never wore a helmet at length before, so it was nice to ‘not feel’ it.

My CatEye wireless Microcomputer is awesome. Easily read and gave me the stats above. It’s actually better technology than I have in my car right now (my faded, but spunky1996 Subaru Impreza Wagon with 80K miles on the clunker).

As I got in, I scoped out a tree in the back of the parking lot (there are no bike racks) and double locked it. I have to say, the U-lock I got from Backcountry was difficult to lock and took some time to lock the key in just right.  I locked it to a tree I have clear view from my office.

Once I got in, I quickly changed in the wheelchair accessible-bathroom: used unscented baby-wipes (thanks to the ideas from several sites) to wipe off. My clothes aren’t that wrinkled as they were rolled up (it’s business Professional here so I leave a jacket and shoes at my desk) and I leave a Bounce dryersheet in the pannier with the clothes to give it some added fragrance. I have short hair so no worries about styling or helmet head. After about 5 minutes, I was at my desk, with 6 minutes to spare before 9am.  I wonder how sweaty I’ll become in the summer, so we’ll see what happens.  Otherwise, today was easy breezy louisey.

No one really noticed anything at work- one coworker saw me walk in with my helmet and panniers, but didn’t say anything. Best not to advertise just yet. I feel they see me a poseur or worse, Steve Carell from 40 Year-Old Virgin (Schwinn Armstrong).

UPDATE: The ride home.

It’s a bit longer and takes a few minutes more to get home- I assume because of the insane post 5pm rush hour traffic. There were a few times I had to take the lane when trucks were parked in the shoulder (ie. My Lane) so it was pretty sketchy a few times and I admit I had to bail on the sidewalk for fear of getting ridden off the road, so call me a wuss. The last stretch of the ride had some considerable hills on the service road (for you LI’ers, it’s the Eastbound service road of the LIE, near the So. Oyster Bay Road exit.)  I got home around 6:10 pm which is pretty late (I left late- around 5:18 pm) with my wife just shaking her head. I know what she’s thinking- who in their right mind would double their commuting time, esp. since I need an extra hand at home with these kids???!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I Must Prepare!

So I’m scheduled to try my first run tomorrow… and like a kid preparing for camp I’m trying to see if I have everything prepared. I’m still a bit apprehensive of the route, but I will allow for some time tomorrow for any unexpected traffic/detours/etc. I have decided to start out as a ‘fair weather commuter’ of course, and then we’ll see how it’s going to be.

Today I’m supposed to get my final shipment of equipment. Mostly necessities I purchased from Performance Bike (with their 10% off coupon I jacked from Bikeforums). It’s taken almost a week, but I wasn’t in any condition to go anyways.  What’s left is: my helmet, gloves, multi-tool, tire levers, an extra tube, wedge bag and hand pump. I will go over some of the gear as I commute some more in the future and throw in my 2 cents. In my house I already have: my bike, with rack and Cateye wireless micro computer; u-lock, cable lock, rain pants (breathable) and Banjo Brothers commuter panniers. I already tried to see how much I can stuff without weighing it down, so far so good. One side I’ll leave for work clothes, wipes, wallet, ID key card for work (it’s like Fort Knox) and the other pannier for bike stuff such as locks, tube, tool, and maybe lunch. I have a ton of gym coolmax-type shirts I could use. I’ll have to decide whether I’ll need special shorts later as well as the decision to go clipless. Newbie here, so I’m curious to see how this all goes.

Hopefully all will go well. I haven’t made a recon run yet on the weekends as it’s been suggested, I’ve just been too sick. I’ve driven the route several times to dial it in- there are several points where it could get hairy and other points where it’s OK. Not the easiest route via bike and I think I may have to ‘sidewalk’ a few times before I’m confident enough to claim a lane. 

And I’ve just found out I’ll be taking my kids to daycare since my wife’s aunt and uncle decided to trek away for three weeks (to Europe, no less) and left us holding the bag – which means we had to shuffle the kid’s schedules.  I’m going to be driving at least one kid to daycare for most of the week, so I’m not sure how I can commute via bike in those circumstances, so it seems this could be my only week that I’ll commute, take a hiatus, and come back close to mid-June.  I realize this happens a lot, especially whenever I start a hobby I can’t devote or commit my time to, and then I have to resign my self to the fact that I do have other responsibilities and stop being such a kid myself.

Another thought I have if I am actually doing this commuting thang - what the heck am I doing for lunch? I work near the Roosevelt Field Mall which, for those of you outside of Long Island, it is one of the bigger shopping malls here, complete with a huge Food Court, merry-g0-round and can probably be seen from space.  It also has more stores per square mile in the area as well. I used to take the skateboard out to the park or this empty lot which had an incline and carve some lines after my sandwich, which is something I’ll reserve on the overcast days I guess.  I guess I could take the bike to the park and eat, but I hate to change and bike eat, bike back and change again.  We’ll see how the ‘ole legs feel. 

On another note, my little guy is turning 4 this Thursday. I still can’t believe how much time flies when you have kids. Time flies when you get older, but having kids, it’s like lightspeed. Ironically, he’s looking for a new bike. He’s been riding the tricycle you see at the header, and he can climb hills with that thing with Lance-like athleticism.  So I spotted a Lightning McQueen bike at Target the other day- we’re pretty excited.

Friday, May 8, 2009

I Hate Being Sick

I’ve been out because of some mutant virus (thankfully, not the swine) but something I caught from my kids, who are fully recovered right now and running and screaming possibly as I write this. It’s funny, with the onset of starting my commute, and right in time for “Bike to Work Week” etc., I am down for the count. It takes me so long to walk up the staircase or any physical activity. Anyway, whining over and out. Hopefully, I’ll recover soon and get to riding.

While I’m recuperating, I’m also waiting for the rest of my gear from Performance Bike. I just received my Panniers from Banjo Brothers  which I’m very excited about.  I’m also planning my route on Google Maps as well as Map My Ride , which has a number of resources.

The thing I’m most concerned with this whole bike my commute thing is the riding off the side walk. I was a firm believer in the safety of the sidewalk. It’s ingrained in our heads since childhood: ”Don’t ride in the street!!” And the thought of getting to my destination in one piece is a gamble. Then again, it's our lane too. Share the road people!

I’ve read up on this quite a bit on several bike commuter sites. The League  has a number of resources on this as well. But that hasn’t changed my anxiety about it. For the most part, it seems fairly simple- no climbs, some residential areas, but as I surveyed the route via car the other day, some spots had little space for anything. 

I just gotta get over it. 

Here is some info from the Traffic laws of NYS: Article 34 Section 1234:

S 1234. Riding  on roadways, shoulders, bicycle or in-line skate lanes and bicycle or in-line skate paths. (a) Upon all roadways,  any  bicycleor  in-line  skate shall be driven either on a usable bicycle or in-line skate lane or, if a usable bicycle or in-line skate lane  has  not  been
provided,  near  the  right-hand  curb  or edge of the roadway or upon a usable right-hand shoulder in such a manner as to prevent  undue  inter-ference  with  the flow of traffic except when preparing for a left turn or when reasonably necessary to avoid  conditions  that  would  make  it unsafe to continue along near the right-hand curb or edge. Conditions to be  taken  into  consideration include, but are not limited to, fixed or moving  objects,  vehicles,  bicycles,  in-line   skates,   pedestrians, animals,  surface  hazards  or traffic lanes too narrow for a bicycle or
person on in-line skates and a vehicle  to  travel  safely  side-by-side within  the lane.   (b) Persons riding bicycles or skating or gliding on in-line skates upon a roadway shall not  ride  more  than  two  abreast. Persons  riding  bicycles or skating or gliding on in-line skates upon a
shoulder, bicycle or in-line skate lane, or bicycle  or  in-line  skates path, intended for the use of bicycles or in-line skates may ride two or more  abreast if sufficient space is available, except that when passing a vehicle, bicycle or person on in-line skates, or pedestrian,  standing
or proceeding along such shoulder, lane or path, persons riding bicycles or  skating  or  gliding  on  in-line skates shall ride, skate, or glide single file.  Persons riding bicycles or skating or gliding  on  in-line skates upon a roadway shall ride, skate, or glide single file when being
overtaken  by  a vehicle.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Which Bike?

One of my earliest memories was on a bike. Certainly, I recall with fondness my first time on two wheels (after ditching the training wheels). No one forgets that.  It seemed like I was flying. Like all firsts that are similarly comparable (first wave on a surfboard; first time downhill on a snowboard) it’s that unnatural feeling of gliding on a surface at such speed, leaving you wanted to do it again and again. After I got the hang of riding sans training wheels, I got cocky and wiggled the handlebars left to right as if to weave on a slalom course with little orange cones. Of course, I got hucked and endo’ed head first onto the pavement. Since then, my bikes turned from a Huffy-like cruiser, to an old ten-speed from Consumers Distributed, to a Murry BMX bike (blue knobby tires and plastic wheels, similar to the pic..And the plastic seat? Well, to save weight, of course!!.)  

Fast forward to 2000.  Scenes of my wife and I in full rainsuits and crash helmets (the Rollerball kind) on singlespeed bikes going down Mt. Haleakala in Maui on our honeymoon.  2001: We tour the Tuscan countryside to the village of Fiesole on our bikes. (Note: Both trips were day jaunts on a whim. Also note, if your spouse has a fast metabolism, you may want to pack snacks or God help you if you drag her on an all day bike tour). It’s one thing to see scenery from a car, yet another to experience it on a bike. I’ve been thinking a lot about getting back on the bike, especially seeing the gas prices going up again, and my belt getting tighter and tighter by the hour. But what kind? Certainly not the Mongoose MTB in my shed that I put the kid’s seat on the back. Although I did take that from Robert Moses to Fire Island (great trip we did on a whim in 2001- Fire Island is like a separate colony. So many bikes and wagons abound!) I don’t see getting a lot of efficient commuting on that. I needed something else. But what?

After lurking what seemed to be forever on several cycling/bike forums, sites, craigs’ and fleabay, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted a used or new bike. And what kind? I looked at a few hybrids, but wasn’t feeling it. So I decided between a cyclocross and a touring bike.  Which was crazy expensive, even a used one. But I was concerned about fit, and decided to go the way of the forums:”Go to your Local Bike Shop (LBS) and get fitted- first and foremost!” So I did, and I got to say, the best decision I ever made.

There are a few on Long Island, but I hit up Mineola Bike and Lawn mower during lunch. The shop’s been around since 1935 and Barry was extremely helpful. He asked me questions and wasn’t trying to ‘sell me’ anything like a car salesman would.  He guided me to a Specialized Sequioa, which is an entry-level road bike but has some touring aspects to it as well.  He said the carbon fork and seat post would put comfort in my commute as well as having an upright position on the handlebars.  He had me try one and said they needed to order a size down because of the geometry of the bike and how I was reaching over, which was a good thing because I would normally 58-59cm and he had to order a 56 cm.  Go to your LBS people!  You won’t regret it.

Some key features of the Specialized Sequoia:

Key Features

• Ergonomic Road Geometry
We understand that many riders today require a more body-friendly position on the bike; this brought about our scientific approach to ergonomic frame design in the Sequoia family. Ergonomic geometry has three specific attributes:
1. More upright riding position created by a shorter top tube and taller head tube; being more upright reduces back strain. Riders who have reduced flexibility in their back or neck, a desire to be more upright for enhanced visibility, or tend to get sore hands due to too much pressure on them are all candidates for a bike that provides more comfort by addressing these needs.
2. Lower bottom bracket. Improved stability is achieved by lowering the center of gravity, improving cornering control.
3. Optimized weight distribution. Ensuring the correct weight distribution creates a confidence-inspiring, stable ride.
The result is the most ergonomic and comfortable performance road bike on the market, without compromise to ride quality or efficiency.
• Zertz
Over the course of a ride, vibrations can take their toll on a rider, sapping comfort, energy, and focus. The goal of Zertz technology is to minimize vibrations transmitted to the rider, accomplished through elastomeric inserts in the fork, handlebar, seatstays, and seatpost. The result is a smoother, more comfortable ride.
• Zertz Handlebar
Similar to an engine motor mount, this ingenious and effective innovation employs a proprietary damping material between the handlebar clamping area and the stem and in special voids formed into stays, fork legs, and seatpost. The material has been proven to isolate vibrations and reduce transmission to the rider, decreasing fatigue and increasing comfort, without compromising rigidity.
• Fully butted A1 Premium Aluminum
A1 is our time-tested aluminum alloy frame material. The difference comes in our engineering and design team’s exact control over every phase of the alloy’s existence, from raw billet to finished frame. By controlling every aspect of construction, our A1 frames are able to affordably maximize strength-to-weight ratios and ride quality.

Sounds good to me! Here's my VISA!! (I need help...)

Now the waiting. Which is good, since I still need more gear. But you guys who are obsessed with gear like I tend to be will know when I have both a feeling of elation/anxiety when a new package comes. Elation, well that’s obvious- New Stuff!! Anxiety, well, THAT comes when your wife gets home before you do and asks,”What the F_____ did you order now???””