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: