It's been a while since I last posted, but that's only because life has been plenty busy.
First order of business:
This is perhaps the last chance to ride a NICE permanent this year, so I'm opening invitations to anyone in the area that would like to give another 200K a shot!
This is when, as Spencer tells me recently, becoming the time of year where you start to EARN your R-12 award - at least in the midwest. We've already seen 40 degree temps here, and it's barely begun. So, come one, come all -- all five of you, haha!!! No seriously, if you've been thinking about randonneuring, this is a great chance -- hot too warm, not too cold, and the smells of fall and some early changing leaves. It's going to be a fantastic ride if you can gut out the early start time:
Saturday, October 4th, 2:30 AM start
The Free State Border Patrol Permanent
217 KM from Olathe to Pleasanton, and back.
Lights, reflective gear, helmets and a sense of adventure required - email me ASAP to reserve your spot and get direction to the start location, a waiver, cue sheet, etc. In order for the ride to "count" you must be a pending or current RUSA member. Again, email me soon if you're interested! firstname.lastname@example.org
More information on membership and complete rules for riders available at www.RUSA.org
I'd love to have you along!
The early start time sounds like a downer, but trust me: It's worth it.
Lower traffic, the magic of the pre-dawn ride, sunrise on the road, and finishing a really long ride early enough so you still have some weekend left over are all good things, and your spouse and kids will appreciate it!
Other than that, well let's see whats been happening in the world of commuting.
Same old grind! This is a good thing: as of this writing, and it's only a big deal because of how the last couple of years had been going, I have ridden to work every day since July 8th.
I'm still hard-set on the car-free thing, although a LOT of challenges have come up here and there since making that bold statement. Those hard choices have found me, sadly, retreating to the car for a few errands that would have otherwise been impossible with the bicycle. At least in its current incarnation, there are physical limits to what I can carry, and whom. What is good is that only on two occasions did the family have both cars in service at the same time; once for the KCK brevet in August, and once for the big MS Ride and Permanent weekend earlier this month. Aside from that, we've only been using the one car - and my car has been resting quietly with the same tank of gas that I started the summer with. Automotive pundits will scold me for not starting it regularly, etc., but I have - it's fine. And it's still under warranty. I still plan to take good care of it, so no worries --- of course, if you ARE really worried, we can make a deal -- it's still for sale, ya know!
The commutes have been fun, but there isn't much to write about, really. It's the same route, day-in-day-out, and there haven't been any major changes since the flood back in July with the remains of hurricane Gustav blowing through. Since then, however, many of us have wondered openly where summer had gone. That notion really hasn't changed much, as the highest temperature recorded since then is probably 83 degrees, officially. The lowest low temperature so far has been 47 degrees, and the winds have been largely calm and cooling. Humidity seems to have been cut off, as well, so it was a comfortable end to summer. Now that fall is officially here, the leaves have started to slowly change - the NW component to the wind has a little more punch and clarity to it, and there is that unmistakable smell of fall creeping up. It's nice, the favorite time of year for many cyclists - including yours truly. Ahhhh....wool, hot beverages, Oktoberfest brews, oatmeal and soup, gentle rains, pulling the collar a little higher. The crunch of leaves under rubber, the trails a little less busy.
Also adding to my car-free agenda and helping pave the way for an easier seasonal transition is the completion of a new bridge over US-69 highway at 132nd Street. This is a bridge I have dubbed "Lamar-style", after the one that passes over I-435 a little farther north and east. No interchange, simple two-lane bridge to get over the highway. Awesome! After a little experimentation with some routes here and there, it's not exactly fool-proof yet since it doesn't connect to much on the west side, but it's a good start which provides me an "overland" route between jobs and home - as opposed to the bike trail which regularly gets choked with snow and ice during the winter. I have a beater bike in progress, also, an older Trek 900 mountain bike in blue that has defintely seen better days - but it'll fit the bill nicely. I rebuilt the rear wheel & hub, giving it new spokes and removing the dish. The original freewheel hub will take a fixed cog, and I'll end up with "Sheldon Brown's" snow-bike gear preference of 28x15. Fenders, a rack, and I'll be ready for conditions nastier than I want to subject the Kogs to. Ought to work well, and if I have to toss it onto the front of a metro bus, I won't worry too much about it getting thrown under the wheels, although that doesn't seem to be a problem in this city. I was thinking about finally ponying up for some decent Nokian studded tires for the job on this bike, but honestly I'm not sure if I'll need them now. Rutted junk on the trails, maybe so -- but now that that bridge is open and I know the salt trucks of Johnson County usually only need a day to catch up.... well, I don't know how much black ice and such I'll actually see. Of course, I haven't done a millimeter-level lie study of every intersection I'll cross to see if there will be issues with road treatment wash-off or brush-off and/or water retention and run-off collection, but you know. Over the many seasons and years I've commuted on these streets, I really don't know if studded tires will truly be wasted cash for me. I have only a handful of instances occur where I wished I'd had them, but it was usually an avoidable situation and I stayed upright in each case. It depends on how anxious I am to stay on the bike trail and out of traffic when winter hits. I'll see how it goes, but I think I can save some money in that regard...but the verdict is still out.
Lighting, some changes are coming. After a lot of movign back and forth between LED headlights that run on batteries and halogen generator lights, I have leapt into the future and purchased a generator-powered LED headlight finally. Well, I say "finally"; more like "again".
When it first hit the U.S. shores back in 2004 or 05 (can't rememeber exactly) I purchased the Busch und Muller DLumotec Oval Plus headlamp, which was one of the first generator powered LED headlights to emerge on the market. It was good at the time, not great, but quite good. They still make it, but I have a feeling with this latest generation that its days may be numbered. I gave it a good shot, but in the end it just didn't reach far enough down the road to be safe on really fast downhills - at least not what I deem safe. The halogen lights at the time still had the upper hand with optics and light control, so I went back to the Lumotec halogens, and eventually the Schmidt E6. After a few years of terrific success among randonneurs, Schmidt hasn't made any improvements to the E6 - simply because with 3 watts and 6 volts, and such a tight beam pattern, there's nothing else to improve. It's THE best halogen generator light, and that's probably all we can expect. While I'm sure they'll still be made for a while now, LEDs are fast replacing halogens on the commuter and brevet scene. Schmidt took what B+M were doing and made it even better with the EDelux, a company called Supernova released the E3 model this year which makes even battery-powered LED headlamps look weak, and B+M has several new models that are miles ahead of what they were doing even six months ago. It's time, finally. A ton of light, all where you need and want it, and almost no hub drag. It's a fun time to like toys and gadgets, and also be a cyclist. So, after being spoiled by the light quality of my Dinotte battery light, I've decided the dynohub needs an upgrade. I'll let you know my thoughts once I get it installed and tested.
That's all I've got for ya for now, kids --- stay tuned and thanks for reading!