Friday, August 17, 2007


About two weeks ago I was riding my bike home from work when a yellow jacket smacked into by glasses and dropped down onto my bare arm below my shirt sleeve. Panicked, I swatted at the bee with my free hand but didn't knock him off. That, apparently, ticked him off so he jammed his stinger into me and buzzed off. Oof! I pulled off the road and started sucking the poison and spitting it out. Suck. . .spit. . .suck. . . spit just like my mother-in-law used to do with bee stings on her grand children's feet. I'm not sure what people driving by thought of this guy sucking on his arm. But by the time I got home, the pain had lessened and there was no swelling, just some redness.

Flash forward two weeks and I'm out for a ride one afternoon and SMACK! another yellow jacket hits me this time in the lower lip. From there the bee did a somersault into my mouth. Fortunately I had my teeth close enough together to keep him from going farther. I started spitting bee parts out thinking how lucky I was that I didn't get stung this time. Wait. . . for . . it. . . .yeow! He nailed me on the lower lip and man, it was stinging. I couldn't suck my lip so I was stuck being stuck. When I got home I put ice on my lip but by that time it was red, and painful and starting to swell. It stayed that way for about 24 hours.

What was I going to do to keep this from happening again? Ah ha! Look it up on the Internet, of course. I Googled "preventing bee stings" and here's what I found out:

1. Don't wear bright colored clothing.

This gives me the choice of wearing my orange day-glow vest and getting stung by a bee or wearing black and chance getting run over by a semi.

2. Don't wear suntan lotion.

Again a choice: Wear suntan lotion and get stung or get skin cancer.
3. Don't smack a bee hive.
Okay, that's something I can get behind. But, sheesh! What's a biker to do? Maybe it is the scent of the suntan lotion that attracts the curious bee. I'll have to look for unscented sunblock. As for the orange vest? I'm hoping for the sunblock to be the solution.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Riding home from the Bethel School District Thursday afternoon I heard a strange "click" then "scrape" pause "click" then "scrape" pause. I pulled out of the bike lane into a shady driveway in front of a church. I spun the back wheel and sure enough, there was a click and scrape sticking out of my rear tire. The click and scrape was an industrial-sized staple with one pointy end stuck in the tire and the other bend under and up.

I figured I'd have to pull it out, but I was in a nice shady, safe spot to repair the flat. I gently edged out the staple and the tire went "pssssst" then stopped. Hmm. The tire still felt well inflated. I must have been light-headed as I actually thought I might have some special tire or tube that was self-sealing. So I pushed out into the bike lane and headed home.

A quarter mile further along "psssssssssssssssssssssssssssss" and the tire was flat. But this time I was along Highway 99 with trucks and cars zipping by at 55-60 miles an hour. And no shade. I pulled off the road and about 20 feet down an embankment. It was hot, dusty and dry with brown weeds and dead grass mixed in with the dirt. I longed for my shady spot in front of the church. What was I thinking?!

I pulled the wheel off and managed to get the tube out and replaced with my spare. I did this trying to keep my head in the shade of the 55 MPH sign I'd leaned my bike against. I reassembled the bike and felt the newly inflated tire. I was ready to roll albeit a bit dirty and a lot sweatier.

I checked. I don't have self-sealing anything including my sanity.

Saturday, May 5, 2007


One of the nice things about biking in Eugene is the bike paths along the Willamette River. On my six mile ride to work I am only on the paths for about a mile, but it is a pretty idyllic 5,280 feet. There are birds of all sizes singing, flitting through trees and landing in the water. At one point on the ride I seem to always hear a chickadee. Gulls land in the water and on the small islands. Occasionally I'll see a heron either wading in the water to soaring above the trees.

There is also the sound of the river as it moves north through the city. The occasional rapids change both the color and the sound.

I pass a lot of bikers, joggers, walkers and people just sitting and enjoying the river and its environs. It's nice to greet these people as I ride by. The mostly deciduous trees change from bare to green to yellow through the year.

Before I leave the path I cross the river at the Owasso Bridge, a pedestrian-bike bridge that connects the east side path with the west side. There seems to always be at least one person on the bridge watching the river rush by, sipping coffee or eating a snack. More often than not there are several people there occupying the benches.

If I need to, the Willamette River bike paths can take me all the way into Eugene after a 1/2 mile ride on the streets. The river flows south to north and cuts Eugene in half. The bike paths are well-maintained and for the most part safe.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


It is amazing what you see, smell, taste and feel when riding a bike. One of the things I've noticed on my commute is street paint. Because Eugene has a lot of bike lanes there are wide white strips of paint separating the traffic lane from the bike lane. There are also "BIke Lane" signs painted on the roadway. Over the years this paint gets repainted many times and it appears that this happens when there is still plenty of paint on the pavement. Paint begins to build up until the paint is noticeably bumpy when riding over it. "BIKE LANE" thumpity-thump-thump-thump. Maybe the city repaints it because the paint gets dirty, not because it is wearing off. I've also noticed paint that is chipping away from the 1/8" thick strips. At first I thought it was glass; but the small white chips were just chunks of paint.

One advantage to the street paint is it's mostly smooth surface. Often I'll ride right on the bike lane stripe as it is the smoothest part of the road. I'm careful to do this when there isn't any traffic in the car lane, however. The bike lanes this time of year tend to collect all the gravel and other debris that is kicked to the side of the road by car traffic. So riding on the strip helps me avoid this.

And then the smells: the bakery pumping out whiffs of freshly baked bread; the piles of bark-o-mulch and wood chips; the sewage treatment plant and sometimes the scent of fresh flowers. There are also the sounds of birds along the river, the roar of train engines under the overpass and tapping of rain on my helmet. Then there is the box of chocolate doughnuts spilled in the bike lane by a passing motorist who inadvertently left them on the car roof when buying coffee and doughnuts at the Speedi-Mart. No, I wasn't even tempted.

Thursday, March 8, 2007


Eugene has bike lanes on most city streets. That's the good news. The bad news is the amount of debris that clutters those bike lanes making a bike commute an obstacle course. Enter the city streetsweepers. As a bike commuter, I'm well aware when a streetsweeper has worked on my route. One day it is rocks, branches, glass, dead animals and the occasional soda can. The next morning it is smooth sailing. I called the supervisor of streetsweepers to compliment the great work they do.

The other day there was a large ceramic vase smashed to pieces right in the middle of the bike lane. Over a few days the pieces of pottery as well as the wiring got ground into smaller and smaller pieces. Still it was something I had to ride around by going into the traffic lane. And therein lies the problem. You can just plow through all the debris, but you risk both flat tires and losing your balance. More realistically you keep one eye on the bike lane ahead and the other in your rearview mirrow to be alert to following traffic in case you need to move into the traffic lane.

And what's the worst things to have in your path? Well, it isn't glass. Beside objects the size of a small safe, the worst things are blackberry vines. Those thorns can give you a flat almost instantly. And Oregon is the home for wild blackberries growing in every vacant lot and unmaintained roadside.

I wonder what the streetsweepers' schedules look like? Do they take requests? It would almost be worth knowing their schedule and then adjusting my commute to follow the cleanest lanes.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


After seeing "An Inconvenient Truth" last summer, I dedicated myself again to riding my bike to work everyday weather permitting. I figured it would be just my tiny contribution to reducing greenhouse gases.
I cleaned off my ten speed bike that I was using mostly for exercise riding around the neighborhood for 25-30 minutes several times a week. It is a Schwinn Super L'Toure circa 1976. I've treated it pretty well by periodically replacing tires, worn components and accessories and keeping it clean. My bike shoes, however, were also from 1976, a pair of Bata Bikers. These low profile canvas and rubber shoes were light and narrow and worked great with toe clips. But they were visibly rotting off my feet. So my first purchase:
Shimano Cycling Shoes $80
I got the shoes home and tried them on. They were terrific! A bit heavier than the Bata Bikers, but they were sturdier and would keep my feet dry and warm in inclement weather. The problem was they didn't fit in the toe clips. They are made for pedal cleats, although you can wear them without the cleats. Next purchase:
New Pedals and Cleats: $50
I love the cleats. They keep your feet locked to the pedals which makes riding easier. Contrary to what people told me, they have an easy and quick release. So far I haven't fallen.
I need to carry my laptop with me so I started using a backpack. This was okay, but it made me top-heavy and my back was pretty sweaty by the time I got to work. My rear panniers are also 30 years old and very worn and dirty. I started looking for replacements that would also hold a laptop. There are some that do that, but they tend to be really bulky. I needed a waterproof bag and those were often rubbery, heavy and didn't maintain a shape. So I ended up going to REI and buying:
Detour Panniers: $70
These panniers, discussed in the first blog entry, were neither waterproof nor made to hold a computer. However, they did come with waterproof covers you can quickly slip on should the rain start to fall. That leaves the problem of the laptop. I took one pannier and my laptop to a local company that sells foam, and they fabricated a:
stiff foam sleeve $7
for the pannier that fit like a glove and held the laptop that was inside a neopreen cover and inside a waterproof plastic bag.
Where to carry my glasses, a Powerbar, extra gloves, etc.? My old handlebar bag had long ago bitten the dust, so I looked around locally and bought a new:
Handlebar bag: $36
On my first early morning commute in November I strapped on my arm light and hooked my rear amber blinking light to the pannier rack. These, being 30 years old also, were so dim as to almost not be seen. So off again to REI for a:
White front light: $25
Rear red blinking light: $10
And, if you read an earlier post, I'd lost my pump, so back to REI (I'm on a first name basis by now with the bike guys) for a:
Small hand pump $16
Cost to get me back on my bike: $294
A cleaner environment: Priceless!

Friday, February 2, 2007


Nothing is more satisfying than riding along on my bike with only the noise of the tires swooshing along the pavement and the wind whistling by my helmet. Much less satisfying is the annoying squeaks and clicks that sometimes occur from lose parts, worn parts or things dangling in front of moving parts. I'm pretty much obsessive-compulsive when it comes to disallowing my bike to talk back. A previous post talked about repacking my bottom bracket to eliminate an annoying squeaking sound. Read on.
After repacking the bracket, the squeak returned. I'd pedal and the squeak would rear it's ugliness. I'd stop pedalling and the squeak would hide. Pedal, squeak. Pedal, squeak. Hmmm? I went out for a leisurely ride and listened intently trying to lean forward to isolate the sound. It was below me somewhere and not around the front wheel. Because I heard it when I pedaled, I was convinced that it had to be in the drive mechanism somewhere. I got off my bike to inspect it and leaned against the saddle (see above). Squeak. My seat? The nerve! I got on and pedaled away. Pedal, squeak. Pedal, squeak. Each time I pushed the pedal down, my butt moved left then right causing the seat to squeak. A cheek squeak!
I looked under the seat and didn't see anything loose. I spray WD40 around the inner workings of the seat. I got back on and pedaled hard. Pedal, squeak. Pedal, squeak. Finally I pressed down with first my right cheek and then my left. Pedal, silence. Pedal, silence. Success!
I like riding in the cold weather because I have a knit cap and hooded sweatshirt over my ears and I can't hear as well. Pedal, can't hear anything. Pedal, can't hear anything.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Crazed Criminals or Environmental Health Nuts?

I have a work colleague who thinks all bike riders are crazed law-breaking maniacs. My colleague's view is supported by what my colleague sees driving to work everyday. This might be one of those cases where we see what supports our views and we disregard the rest. There is an axiom in baseball that a player who makes a great play in the field will more often than chance lead off the next inning. I've heard announcers and baseball aficionados swear that it happens so often that it is truly amazing. A group of baseball statisticians decided to look into that scenario and found out that it happens a little less than chance. So why do people think it happens so often? I think that events that support your world view tend to stick while those that don't slip by. You buy a new red Toyota truck and pretty soon you're seein' 'em all over the place.

I tend to pass 10-15 bike riders a day on my commute. And, besides the occasional person riding the wrong way in the bike lane and forcing a game of chicken on me, I seldom see anyone breaking the law on a two wheeler. Probably the same forces are working on my perception as well.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


I can't remember the last time I packed the bearings in my bike's bottom bracket. Probably 3 years ago. So here goes. I took the crank arms off with the extractor (a clever device if there every was one) and then unscrewed the lock nut on the bottom bracket. Finally I unscrewed the removable bearing cup on the left side of the bike.

The grease was old and there wasn't enough there so it was way past time to repack the bracket. I pulled all 22 bearings out . . . 11 from each side. . . and washed them in paint thinner. I thoroughly cleaned the inside of the bottom bracket, the removable cup and the fixed cup examing both for wear. I then repacked each cup with a ton of grease. I turned the bike on its right side and positioned 11 bearings in the fixed cup. I slid the axel in so that the bearings would stay in place.

I next placed the removable cup's bearings and carefully screwed the cup back on trying not to jar any of the bearings loose. Once I had adusted the bearing cup and the lock nut, I replaced the crank arms on both sides. It was then that I noticed a lone bearing lying on the cloth I used to clean bearings. Aaarrgghhh!

So . . . starting over. . . I had to redo the entire process; but the bike is back in action and the bearings are all in place enjoying a bath of grease.


We had three inches of snow Thursday and there is still snow on the ground three days later although the streets are bare and dry. Consequently I did not ride my bike to work on Thursday with temperatures in the mid 20's and snow and ice on the streets and bike paths.
What do bike commuters do when it snows? Do mountain bikes stay upright in a light snow? And then there is the matter of staying warm. I've been wearing tights and then shorts over the tights. That seems to keep my legs (that are in motion) warm most of the time. I also wear insulated socks under wool socks. My bike shoes are sturdy and warm without vent holes. I then wear a t-shirt under a tight-fitting hooded shirt, a light sweatshirt and finally a waterproof jacket. I wear a knit cap under my helmet and sometimes the hood to my thin, tight fitting shirt. That usually is an overkill and I'm too warm 20 minutes into my ride. But in the first few miles it feels great!

Monday, January 8, 2007


We've had a ton of rain the past few days. Florence had 4.5 inches in 24 hours and part of Highway 26 was flooded. So I was watching the skies early this morning to see if I could ride to work. About 7:45, when I had to make a decision to drive or bike, the rain stopped and off I went. . . blinkin' away. When I got about 1/4 mile down the bike path, the path was closed due to flooding. I've seen the sign and the gate before, but wondered how often they close the gate. The path dips down by the river at that point and there was a couple feet of water covering that area. The detour was short just taking me onto a residential street for two blocks and then right back onto the path.

As I crossed the Willamette River I could see how swollen it was with brown water up to the top of its banks. A minute or so later a light rain started to fall so I pulled under a bus shelter to get my pancho on. But then the rain abruptly stopped so I continued on my way to Work.

Off and on during the morning it poured. But around 12:15 it let up and the sky lightened so I got my bike gear on and headed home. I was on Maxwell Road bridge crossing over the railroad tracks when I got a flat tire. I haven't had a flat in a long time; fortunately I had both a patch kit and a spare tube. Because it was looking like rain again, I opted to put on the new tube. I was so proud of myself for 1) having the extra tube with me and 2) knowing how to quickly change it. That pride preceeded a fall when I noticed I didn't have my pump with me. Oooof! I watched a couple of bikers go by but none stopped or looked like they had a pump on board. There are two gas stations about 1-1.5 miles back toward work, but there's no guarantee that they had an air pump. Most stations don't. So I started pushing my bike East on Maxwell toward home figuring I could get over to River Road and head north and maybe go to Les Schwabs.
About 1/10 of a mile into my walk I saw what used to be a gas station. It was surrounded with a high black chainlink fence and the front gate was locked with a huge chain and padlock. On the side of the building was hand painted "Online Auto Auction". The small buildiing was surrounded with cars. I noticed that there was a light on in the former gas station office so I pushed around to the side of the property and found a gate that was open. As I pushed my bike into the lot, a guy came out of the office locking the door. I asked him if he had an air pump I could use to inflate my tire. He hedged for a minute saying he was late for a meeting, but then said that he had a compressor in his office and it might work. In a few seconds he was back with the compressor that he said had a low battery. But it was enough to get my tire pumped up and I was able to continue home and avoid the rain. I thanked him for his kindness and told him I would pass on an act of kindness to someone else.

Hauling a Laptop Onboard

As a bicycle commuter I've always needed to have my laptop with me. Until now I've carried it in a backpack. This hasn't worked out too well for a number of reasons. First it makes my center of gravity too high; secondly, it makes my back sweaty on warmer days, thirdly, it doesn't allow my reflective vest to show on my back; and finally, when I wear my rain poncho, the backpack keeps the poncho from covering my seat and my bike seat.

I searched in local bike shops and online for a bike bag or set of panniers that would accommodate a laptop and provide protection from bumps and water. I found one that was pretty expensive but it was also too big and I'd have a hard time clearing my heals with it hanging on my bike rack. They do sell padded sleeves for laptops, but they didn't look sturdy enough and I'd probably need to add extra padding to keep the sleeve from bouncing around.

I finally decided on a DetoursTransit Tour set of panniers. They are water resistant not waterproof, but do come with waterproof covers that store in the top pocket of each pannier. They were also about the right size to accommodate some foam padding and my laptop.

I went to a local store that sells foam and they built a custom sleeve out of very dense polyurethane for only $7. They glued it together and I reinforced it with some duct tape. It fits like a glove into my pannier; and my laptop, in its tight-fitting neoprene cover and a plastic bag, fit snugly into the sleeve.

Here's link to photographs of the new bags and computer sleeve: