December 28, 2015

Milepost 1445

Finally, I think some form of "winter" is upon us here in KC... Thankgawd. I thought I was never gonna get a chance to use the studs this year. Trail time!

From Instagram via IFTTT & Twitter (@rusadude)

December 26, 2015

Keeping it simpler

  So, I really wish I'd've stumbled upon this video before I'd made THIS post back in April of this year.  This, I suppose, might be best explained because of my lack of boating experience, but, looking at the final result I feel this strong sense of "ooohhhhhh!".  Self-deprication is one of those things I'd prefer to leave in my past (unless it offers comic relief); but, a token of honesty that will simply *shock* regular readers:  I do tend to overcomplicate things.  
This revelation supplies a re-title for the previous post, which might read like:  "A complicated home-brew saddlebag bracket for saddles without saddle loops when all you have laying around is some 90°-angle aluminum and a dowel rod, and no internet connection".  For those criteria, I stand by my beautiful results.  I also satisfied the battle cry of the frustrated inventor:  I figured out a great way to NOT make a saddlebag support.  Yes, it worked, but not as well as hoped.

The solution in the video:  genius, even if it doesn't 100% satisfy my personal preference for having things super tight ... and that could be easily remedied with a single well-placed toe strap cinched around each of the cleat horns on the outside of each saddle rail, or something even quicker like a figure-8 loop of bungee passed thru the cleat's center cutout and stretched across the top to keep the cleat snug to the saddle rails - not super tight, more of a rattle preventative. 

 It really makes me think farther outside my own box:  it never would have occurred to me to seek a bicycle baggage solution at my local marina.  The internet is truly a beautiful place.

I'm beyond this particular stage now, as I've moved up to a new saddle which seems to have provided the best of all worlds for me, and it has bag loops:  but, for the adventure bike (gravel bike, whatever it's called), this may provide a great solution - that's where the saddle mentioned in the April post ended up, and who knows what lay ahead for that bike as far as configurations go.

Credit where it's due:
Video comes from the Carradice Hacks page, a subpage of Wallingford Bicycle Parts.  The original post comes from one of my new favorite reads:, described as 

"Reviews of all things touring, commuting and lifestyle related for the discerning cyclists with a mildly sardonic tone". 

The post is a share of a video by Chris Quint.  

I very much appreciate the hard work and hours which go toward the creation of pages like 'Epicurean' - these are the sorts of pages I look to for great ideas, time savers, and succinct commentary. My niche is, by contrast, storytelling.

Oh, yeah... and riding, eh?
Gotta go . . .

December 12, 2015

The Paths of Least Resistance

It's all over the internet, and I don't know if it's urban legend or just a good architectural parable; but when I first heard it recounted by my lifelong friend, the Crowbar, it stuck firmly in my head ... especially when visiting a locale which has clearly never heard of it.

I've enjoyed this analogy in the past when trying to relate design philosophy to folks at work, especially:
  I can't recall the name of the college campus, but, the story goes that the buildings were all originally built with NO pathways between them; just open grass between the parking lots and each dorm and/or classroom or lecture hall.  Over the first year of operation, the students and teachers would do what anyone would do in an undefined space:  they walked to and from each building along the shortest route, or the routes that made the most sense - diagonals, curving around terrain, etc.  After this first year, the trodden pathways across each of the grass areas took shape.  Only then did the design team return to lay down the paved walkways, using the exact routes that had been worn into the grass.  Those who newly attended in the years afterwards would consistently comment on the genius and efficiency the layout of the campus provided, and how fast and easy navigation became compared to the usual array of 90° angles and grid-style walkways-to-nowhere.

  I always look for this echoed in ride behavior; if riders are always hitting a control and then rapidly leaving for "whatever" on the other side of town, it's a chance to consider a positive change.  When designing routes, try to keep this in mind.  Not only will it likely prevent you from worrying about shortcuts, it will provide the sort of natural flow which riders will naturally be drawn to follow; which presents fewer opportunities for anyone to become lost.  At least, that's the hope... and, ultimately it's just my opinion, and definitely not a criticism of others.

Here in the KC area, the grid system reigns... other cities once visited, while initially conveying to a "grid veteran" a sense of confusion and poor design, they ultimately reveal the same patterns one would naturally take if no roads had been in place:  the roads go almost directly to wherever it is they are headed, instead of drawing squares around them and boxing everything in.  Dallas and its surroundings, for example - an area I've bashed in the past, yet has one of the most active and successful randonneuring scenes in the world - if you're in Waco and you want to head to Tyler, the roads to get there create a straight-shot, almost the same route one would take in an airplane.  Two similarly spaced towns in KC, one follows roads along a strict staircase of 90° turns; one has to get creative and make their own diagonal path.  Now, in neither area would one put a good rando route on the exact roads most cars would be using, but many of the old farm roads follow the same rules as the main roads in each respective area, too.  It's interesting, traveling from place to place, discovering how a region has been navigated over time.  I'm not saying KC is somehow doomed because of the old farm section road plan, but only that one need venture farther afield to get to the good stuff.

True, this doesn't work everywhere.  Near rivers, mountains and railroad lines, however, the natural flow and sense of destination the direct, curvy roads often invoke also make for some of the best bicycling experiences.  The low resistance of the old country road, county highway, or original U.S. route system are all great examples.  The way original railroad alignments arc gently across huge expanses of prairie - no wonder rail trails, or highways alongside them, are so popular!   No wonder the Flint Hills 225km route creates such a strong mental picture once one has ridden it.  Powerful stuff.

While I'd often sought out routes beginning close to home for my own convenience, now I've begun to look outward to the places still small enough to evidence the long, open stretches of long distance cycling perfection.  I can't wait to spread out and ride some new territory next spring, and explore that flow.  It's sorta like lightning during a thunderstorm:  the path of least resistance doesn't seem to have a pattern or purpose at all ... but, it's undeniably beautiful, powerful, and intriguing.  Those are the roads for me.  As I take pen to map once again this winter looking for the next great route, all of this flurries around in my head - and then I look out the window, and dream of these faraway roads traced only as thin gray and blue lines.  I slowly drag the pencil across the page from one town to the next and see the long, flowing printed lines underneath... There.  That one.
Let's ride that one...
And it begins.

Stay rando, my friends.