Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Day 6- Commuting with the Bianchi San Jose

Success!! Day 6

Weather: 68 deg F. muggy, drizzle, cloudy
Time I left my house:  7.56 am.
Time I arrived at work: 8:33 am
Distance: 8.34 miles
Avg. Speed: 13.5
Max Speed: 20.4
Time: 37 min.

Pre-game: Wife had the kids again, so off they went. I took the dog out and left him breakfast, just so I could get out at a decent time (I had to get there and change before a REQUIRED appearance at this month’s Employee of the Month ceremony at our company at 8:45 am). Since the weather called for rain, I was pretty excited to take the San Jose (St. Joe) out today. I finally assembled St. Joe last night: I put the $9 Schwinn computer and stock pedals on, as well  as tightening everything (although I had trouble inflating the tires, so I used the presta valve adapter this morning without incident.). 

I knew I was going to be slower today and it didn’t rain at all during the ride, just a few drizzles. This bike is awesome. Even though it’s a singlespeed, I still kept normal avg. time (my Max Time fell as well as my Trip Time). Although you realize pretty quickly what areas on your route are sort of harder when you don’t have gears. But I pushed through it and I think my body’s getting better because of it. 

It’s my first ride with the Planet Bike fenders and they were awesome. At first I thought I heard rattling, but realized that was just all the pebbles, grit and whatever coming up from the road. I also like the tires

I didn’t have time to get another set of clipless pedals, so I rode with the stock pedals. It’s a good feeling to know that I don’t have to worry about unclipping. I do wonder if it makes a difference on a singlespeed.

UPDATE: The ride home.

Weather: 73 deg F. bit of drizzle, very muggy, uncomfortable, cr#ppy
Distance: 8.38 miles
Avg. Speed: 13.4
Max Speed: 19.9
Time: 37.30 min.

Going home on a singlespeed was a bit of a challenge for me- I just have to adapt that I need to work a little harder and accept I can’t go faster on downhills. What still amazes me is that I do still have the same avg. speed but my max speed lowered and my trip time wasn’t as bad. All in all, it was great fun. I didn’t have to think, and stopped looking at the cyclocomputer because, well, there wasn’t a point. I knew my max wasn’t getting any higher down the hill, so I bent down and enjoyed coasting. I just enjoyed the ride. My legs are paying for it. There wasn’t too much rain, a little drizzle, but there were puddles on the street. Thank God for the fenders. There was a little spray when I went through, but no splash or splatter at all- these fenders rock.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Saint Joe (Bianchi San Jose)

It’s rained 17 out of the 20 days this June, and it’s been a chore to clean the sand (there’s a lot of it here on Long Island) and grit, etc., from my drive train. I keep thinking of my bike as a commuter, but it is also a sort of racing/endurance bike- not that it’s a carbon-fiber- pro racing bike for Quickstep, but I’d like to keep it in good condition for a long time. Call it what you will: laziness, fear of my ‘fast’ bike’s drivetrain wearing down, or overzealous need for ‘yet another bike’. But I can justify it by merely saying I need something for foul weather.

Enter the Bianchi San Jose.

I am not a hipster, nor am I a fan of the big scene that encompasses the ‘singlespeed’ or ‘fixies’ niche group. This cadre of folks knows their shite and if you don’t, they’ll let you know it (just log on to and ask a newbie question in the Singlespeed group, I defy you!). As a commuter, the singlespeed makes sense: I don’t have to mess with tuning and am less likely to have any problems. The Bianchi San Jose is also a cyclocross bike, which could take full-length fenders and racks, wider tires to handle the roadside debris and other shocks of the road, especially when weighted down with a lot of stuff in my panniers. I was on-line for a good part of my day for a couple of weeks checking the forums, the reviews and of course, the bike. So when Jenson’s had it on closeout in my size, I couldn’t resist.

In the weeks before making this decision, I was wondering whether or not to get the Kona Smoke or the Jamis Commuter 3. Both were good bikes, around $400 (I could not spend more than that or I would here from my wife’s lawyer regarding separation) as well as having fenders. Although, what killed me is that I hate flatbars- they serve their purpose on mountain bikes, but I love the drops just for the simple fact of more postions. Kona is a great bike manufacturer and The Smoke is a favorite among commuters, but I was hesitant from the flat-bars. Jamis I heard was heavy and not that great a ride and… mustache bars. Then I saw the San Jose was on sale, so I put that on my list.

The deal-breaker- it’s a cyclocross bike and with that comes versatility. And damn it, I could never afford a ‘cross bike when I was originally looking, so here was my chance. It’s got a flip-flop hub so I have an option to make it a fixed-gear bike should I be inclined. I have a relatively flat commute (there are a couple of hills, but one doesn’t climb for long) and I’m curious as to the difference. There has been nothing but positive comments on the San Jose. And Bianchi makes pretty bikes.

When it came in, I came home for lunch almost every day since to slowly put it together, since I haven’t much time in the evenings to tool around, having kids sucks time in the day- and during the work week, it’s usually the chores of feeding them, bathing them and putting them to bed that makes the most of our evenings. So when the bike came, it pretty much wasn’t assembled until a week. I also ordered Planet Bike Cascadia fenders (touring/hybrid size) and an Eco Rack.

It was fairly easy to put together, although I needed to go to Home Depot and buy some 10-32 stainless steel bolts (3/4 inch). Why? Because the San Jose has only one eyelet on the rear dropout. To accommodate both the rack and fender, I needed a longer bolt- this fit fine (after a few tries with ½ inch and other hardware from the Planet Bike packages). I will need new tires and pedals, but it’s almost ready to ride.

Father's Day

It was a somewhat rainy weekend and busy father’s day. Although it was sort of ‘my day’ it seemed to have been trumped by my father’s thing (we took him out to lunch at a Japanese restaurant) and my wife’s birthday (which trumps any occasion any day). So how likely would it have been to play with my new toy (more on that later…)? Not very likely. But I still had a blast with my son’s new ride.

Toy r Us had a sale on kid bikes and jumped at the chance. He just turned 4 this May and has been pedaling a tricycle for most of the past two years. It’s a wonder how he maneuvers that thing everywhere- even climbs that thing to our surprise. So, he test rode a few at the toy store: a Diego, another no-name- a Huffy with caliper brakes… but he still came back to old Lightning McQueen- this 16’ wheeled cruiser with training wheels. Although the transition took a little getting used to as far as the height and pedal length, but it didn’t stop him.

I felt the same amount of pride assembling his bike I did when I put together his crib. It’s a Dad thing, knowing that you’re building something that your son will spend a good chunk of his life in as well as counting on the reliability of the structure. It took me no time to build (thankfully, or my wife would’ve paid 10 more bucks for their ‘assembly fee’) and he rode around the living room for a test run. Even though he had to jump off to turn it around (our house is not a mansion) he couldn’t stop. The bike has a little handlebar bag, so he transferred his water bottle and snacks from his school bag. And he repeated he was going to ride,”Just like daddy’s bike”.

On Sunday, father’s day, when the rain subsided for a few minutes, we took it out for a test run. I have to admit it scared me to death. Even though he was on training wheels, he was farther away from the ground and a heavy piece of steel was underneath him. I wanted him to get used to the coaster brakes, so I had him try it out again and again on the driveway, before he went into the street. We live in a cul-de-sac so there’s no traffic to speak of, which makes a great training ground for him. So he coasted down our driveway, pedaled a few feet and hit the decline. All was well until he was gaining speed downhill. Instead of hitting the brakes, he lifted his legs and feet off the pedals to GO FASTER. And although I was running, terrified of him wiping out, he was screaming in glee at this new-found speed. He finally learned how to stop, but he loves going fast down the driveway. I tried to put a word of caution and looking at cars (and he did finally wear his helmet, much to his dismay) but he couldn’t get over how fast he had gotten down the driveway. I guess that’s why we all love to ride. It’s that unnatural feeling of speed and how we try and try to attain it in everything.

It started to rain and I had to bring it in. He explained we needed to put it in the garage along with the other bikes, so “It won’t get wet, Daddy.” Earlier he had made a project at school and he took it out of his bag to show me. “Look Daddy, this is for you.” It’s a simple card that says,”Happy Father’s Day” on the cover, with his painted handprint, and inside,”I Love You”. Of course he didn’t write the words, one of his teachers had, with the requisite hearts replacing the ‘o’s in ‘Love’ and ‘You’. But I got to tell you, that’s the best gift I could ever ask for. It’s moments like these that make you feel like you don’t deserve such a gift and at once, you’re happy and maudlin because moments like these are so fleeting and fast.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Day Five-Going Clipless Baby!!

Success!! Day 5

Weather: 59 deg F. beautiful, sunny with a little headwind
Time I left my house: Little late - 8.04am.
Time I arrived at work: 8:38 am
Distance: 8.20 miles
Avg. Speed: 14.1
Max Speed: 23.3
Time: 35 min..

Pre-game: Wife had the kids again, so off they went around 7:20am (almost forgot to pack my son’s security blanket!). Was kind of excited since I put the new Shimano M520 pedals for a clipless adventure! I won’t mention the grief and pain it was to get the stock pedals off (let’s just say the folks didn’t grease them when they installed the stock, so they were stuck. Solution: Vice grip, WD40 and a nice rubber mallet).

Traffic was OK, at one point at a light, I forgot I was clipped and almost fell- luckily, my left foot got out before I hit the ground. It’s funny how it’s as if you don’t remember that you’re clipped in until you make a stop (or need to).

Overall the ride was good, not sure if the clipless made me faster, but it definitely helped during the climbs and I didn’t have to fumble around looking for the cage which I’m usually doing with the cage pedals that came stock. It does take getting used to, however, looking for the spot where the cleat the the pedals meet. The MT21 shoes, which are MTB shoes as well as indoor, served great as I didn’t have to tap tap tap around the place.

UPDATE: The ride home.

Weather: 67 deg F. kind or cool, strong headwind
Distance: 8.41 miles
Avg. Speed: 13.5
Max Speed: 24.7
Time: 37.25 min..

Damn you wind! I was almost entirely riding the drops to compensate my slow ass in the wind, which explains my slower average speed. Had my first near miss- across a squirrely section of road where I need to hit the sidewalk (I know, but there’s the dangerous route or the safer route along the sidewalk). Little did I know a car was turning into McD’s for dinner. I stopped and turned and skidded a little, I gues due to the weight of my rack and panniers, and went “Hey!” No reaction from the driver, much less acknowledgement. When they say don’t ride on the sidewalk, that’s why kids! I’m going to have to be vigilant. Mind you, this was in bright, beautiful, DAYLIGHT. I can’t imagine what would happen if it were raining or night time. Kind of an eye opener. I got to remind myself to check my back tire treads- I’m so p---ssed!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Day Four-Back in the Saddle!

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

Weather: 60 deg F. muggy, drizzle, foggy with a little headwind.
Time I left my house:  Late-ish - 8.00am.
Time I arrived at work: 8:38 am
Distance: 8.45 miles
Avg. Speed: 13.7
Max Speed: 24.7
Time: 37 min.. 

Pre-game: My wife’s Aunt and Uncle are back from their European vacation to watch the kids so I’m back in the saddle! Unfortunately, it’s only one day this week (today). But I’ll take it. I had to take out my u-lock out and some other items to haul two Entemenn’s donut boxes (had a meeting this morning that lasted thru the day and we all had to chip in for breakfast). I had to move some things in my roomy Banjo Bros. panniers, so it took a little time longer, and I was lollygagging before I left at 8 am.

Traffic was OK, considering it was foggy drizzling (Note to self: still need to consider a beater bike for a dedicated ‘rain or snow’ bike because I felt for my Sequoia today! Poor baby!) I wore my new Performance Bike yellow day-glo rain/wind jacket. Great for $20 bucks (review to follow) and kept me dry. 

Overall the ride was OK, I’ve been off the saddle for a week and a half, so I’m a little slow and achy.   

I received (along with my neon jacket) Shimano SH-MT21 MTB shoes and MT520 Pedals. I didn’t have a chance to install the pedals, but the shoes rock. (Reviews to follow).

UPDATE: The ride home.

Weather: 69 deg F. muggy, strong headwind
Distance: 8.41 miles
Avg. Speed: 14
Max Speed: 23.3
Time: 35.51 min.

Somehow I got my avg. speed up to 14 (really?).  I’m getting more and more comfortable with the route and w/r/t traffic, so I guess I’m getting faster and coasting less (or braking less). I could see my self getting more and more daring a la bike courier-ish when I go through intersections, but I need to be vigilant because all it takes is that one careless, cell-phone toting driver who’s reaction time is like that of a 70yr old incontinent senior. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Yet Another Week Off the Bike

That's right. It pains me to put yet another $27 filling up my Subaru for another week off. I believe I might be riding again next Wednesday. 

In the interim, I've been looking at...what else... bike components, bike clothing, accessories, other bikes. It's so dang addicting and expensive, I'll need to find a support group for this. 

I feel the next evolution in my cycling/commuting journey is going clipless. As with all the usual fears and phobias associated with this, I have been heavily seeking out Shimano 520's for sale on either eBay or whatever online bike shop has available. 

Unfortunately, the LBS' around town have these available for almost $20-$40 more, which, I'm sure, is for their own benefit of keeping their business going. I did find a pair on Jenson's site for about $32 before shipping. Not too shabby since my LBS had if for twice as much. 

Now all I need to find are shoes...