Upping My Bicycle Commuting Game – Part Six – Cycling Goals For the New Year

You should ride for meditation for 1 hour per day – if you’re too busy, then ride for 2 hours

—- Old Zen Saying

My 1987 Cannondale road bike at Trammell Crow Park.

 

I have read that one thing that I can do to help achieve my goals is to share them. This isn’t easy – important goals are, by nature, personal and can be embarrasing. Plus, there’s the problem that nobody else really gives a damn and they (you) will be terribly bored. But by sharing them, against my better judgement, I hope to:

  1. Gain Clarity – I have come to the conclusion that I write primarily not to communicate my ideas but to discover and develop them.
  2. Accountability – Other people, even mysterious eyes on the internet, adds motivation.
  3. Feedback – Someone (you) might have some ideas or suggestions.

A primary goal I had this year is related to fitness – and I’m sure you won’t be surprised to read that it is a cycling mileage goal. The basic goal is ten miles a day. That works out to, what? Three thousand six hundred and sixty (leap year, remember?) miles for the year. That sounds like a long way. I used to have a spreadsheet to track my mileage, but now I use Mapmyride.com.

I do cheat in two ways. I know that sometimes the weather is simply too awful to ride. If I ride my spin bike at home I count one hour as ten miles. That seems fair – ten miles per hour is pretty much how fast I usually ride (though I average a lot less – in the big evil city I spend as much as a third of my time waiting on traffic) plus on the spin bike I never coast. The other cheat is a little more controversial (in my own mind). When I take the bus to work, I have to transfer, usually at the Spring Valley DART station. It’s about 1.3 miles from my office – which I can walk in thirty minutes (if I walk fast). If I do that – walk instead of taking the second bus route – I give myself five miles biking credit. It feels about right, the mile plus walk is about as tiring as five miles on the bike – it takes thirty minutes, so I’m sticking with an hour or so of exercise a day.

Is that fair? It seems OK to me and gives me another option and a little flexibility.

So… Accountability… how did I do in January.

My total in January was 314.02 miles – so I beat my goal by four miles. Good enough.

The breakdown:
31 Bike Rides – 199.02 miles
9 Spin Rides – 90 miles (eight episodes of The Witcher and one hour of watching music videos)
5 Walks – 25 miles

Looking at my Calendar – I had 7 days that I did nothing. That would be another goal – reduce those days.

January Map My Ride, Calendar – Click to Enlarge

One other interesting fact. I thought about a goal of, for the year, riding my bike more miles than driving my car (excluding long trips). I didn’t decide on that goal because it seemed impossible, especially in Dallas.

Well, as I think about January – I drove a car three times, twice to Love Field (once for work, once to pick Candy up) and once to Home Depot (to buy something too big for my bicycle). That’s a total of what? Maybe fifty miles? Everywhere else I went I either cycled, took DART (one other goal of mine for this year was to utilize the bus system – which I have been doing), or rode with someone else driving. I never drove myself to work (not always by choice). So I rode my bike two hundred miles and drove fifty. I didn’t think that was possible, and it probably won’t be for the rest of the year… but there it is.

My bike commute – the bike riding itself – is getting really easy. I told someone that, unless the weather is horrible, usually my bike ride to/from work is the best part of my day. They said, “How many people can say that their commute is the best part of their day.” I nodded, although I thought to myself that a big part of that is how unpleasant the rest of my day is. Unfortunately, changing clothes and such at work is the worst part of my day. My employer blathers on a lot about work/life balance – but it is all bullshit. They make it as difficult as they can to commute without a car.

Also, I have to be careful – when you don’t drive very much and live in a car-obsessed city like Dallas – on a tiny bicycle dodging giant killer hunks of steel that spew toxic fumes in your face even if they miss you or standing by the road waiting for a bus as the traffic roars by inches away –  you begin to hate cars. You begin to hate the people that drive them, especially people that drive fast/aggressively, yak on their phones, and honk their horns. It’s a good opportunity to practice mindfulness and forgiveness.

So, sorry to bore you with my stupid little story – one month down, eleven to go.

Better finish this off and go for a bike ride – get my ten miles in. Don’t want to start February off behind.

Upping My Bicycle Commuting Game – Part 5, Gonex Garment Folder

“There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself, ‘Do trousers matter?'”
“The mood will pass, sir.”
P.G. Wodehouse, The Code of the Woosters

My 30 year old touring bike in The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

 

It didn’t take long and now the actual bicycling part of my bicycle commute is the easiest part. As a matter of fact, on most days the bike ride to and from work is the high point of my day. The low part is having to change clothes at my work. We don’t have showers or a locker room (Some runners and I have been lobbying for lockers and showers – work/life balance and all – and everybody agrees it would be a great idea but the budget keeps getting cut at the last minute) and I have to change in the handicap stall. No fun at all. The ride is five miles each way which is too far to ride in my work clothes (sweat, rain, grease, heat, cold…) so I have to carry my clothes and change each way.

I’ve tried taking a week’s worth of clothes in on the weekend and that didn’t work. It takes up too much room and I still have to change – plus there’s a lot of unnecessary walking around (bike area to clothes storage area to desk to bathroom to clothes storage… back and forth).

So I have to carry each day’s work clothes with me. But I have never been a good clothes folder and my shirt and pants were always terribly wrinkled. A lot of bike commuting sites recommend rolling your clothes – but that doesn’t work. They still come out wrinkled.

I kept on doing research until I came across something that I had never heard of before. Something that turned out to be an amazing, perfect solution.

A Pack-It Garment Packing Folder.

It’s like a big nylon envelope with a plastic board printed with folding instructions. I ordered one and, after messing with it for awhile, learned to fold a shirt and pair of pants and store them away.

The most common brand of these things are Eagle Creek. I ordered one of those first, and bought the smaller size (thinking that I only had one shirt and one pair of pants). It turned out that was too small – my shirt and britches are pretty big.

At that point I discovered that less expensive knock-offs were starting to appear so I bought one from Gonex – a Gonex Garment Folder in Red to be exact.

Next I had to figure out how best to carry the thing. I was surprised to find it actually fit inside my new backpack. It takes up a lot of room in there though, and is an inconvenient shape – so that if I had to carry a big lunch or laptop – it was pretty awkward. I worked out a secure way to bungee the thing onto the top of my rear rack with a piece of elastic and a couple of carabiners.

The thing works like a charm. It only takes a minute to fold and pack and it keeps my clothes wrinkle-free. Take a good look at these things, even if you don’t commute on a bicycle. They are great when you travel – you can get a few days’ worth of clothes in a small space – in a carry-on. It’s always a good thing when a weird gadget works like it is supposed to and actually helps in some odd way.

I still hate changing clothes at work though.

Upping My Bicycle Commuting Game – Part 4, A New Backpack

“I’ve got my full rucksack pack and it’s spring, I’m going to go Southwest to the dry land, to the long lone land of Texas and Chihuahua and the gay streets of Mexico night, music coming out of doors, girls, wine, weed, wild hats, viva! What does it matter? Like the ants that have nothing to do but dig all day, I have nothing to do but what I want and be kind and remain nevertheless uninfluenced by imaginary judgments and pray for the light.”

Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums

Osprey Talon 22, in red

I have never liked wearing a pack while I ride my bike. In the summer I sweat too much anyway and a pack makes that so much worse. Plus, they are uncomfortable – I rode home from work one day with my laptop in the backpack the company gave me to carry it and by the time I made it home my shoulders were killing me. I had to stop every hundred yards or so, get off, remove the pack, and stretch – the pain was unbearable.

But commuting every day without a pack proved impossible. I have panniers on my bike but they don’t always cut it. I have to carry my stuff from my bike to my office. Plus, it’s not only about capacity, it’s about organization, and a backpack can be kept loaded… simply grab and go.

I began to realize my problem wasn’t with small backpacks per se – but with the shitty packs that I had. There was the pack the company gave me – which was designed to carry a laptop from a car to a desk. The other packs I had (and I had more than a few) were all giveaways from various conferences or cheap sacks I found at Goodwill. I had some Christmas money left over after I bought my hi-viz cycling jacket – so I started to research small backpacks/daypacks.

And research I did. I started online with searches like “best backpacks for bike commuters” or “best cycling daypacks.” I made lists, winnowed them down then bulked them up. I wrote down pros and cons and quoted review after review. I watched youtube videos until I was sick.

Actually the selection narrowed down pretty quickly. The most popular pack was the Osprey Radial – which was specifically designed for bike commuters. I talked to a cyclist friend that worked at REI and carried an Osprey Tempest 20 with her everywhere she went. She explained the philosophy between different types of packs (hiking, biking, travel,etc.), the importance of proper compression straps,  and where each type would be found in the store.  So I went down to REI and poured over the wide and deep selection that they offered.

I did look at pack brands other than Osprey – but it didn’t take me long to figure out that they seemed to know what they were doing. I liked the Radial – it was designed for the exact purpose that I needed a pack for. But it was very technical – it was complicated with a lot of bells and whistles. It had a laptop sleeve but no slot for a hydration bladder. It seemed perfect for what I wanted, but wouldn’t be very useful for anything else.

But over in the hiking section I found the Osprey Talon 22 and realized that it was exactly what I wanted.

For me, the biggest thing was comfort. I didn’t want a pack that caused me pain like that horrible laptop bag.

The Osprey Talon (and the Radial) had an innovative design with mesh suspension and die-cut foam back panel and curved straps. Plus the Talon had a wide, contoured hipbelt – and I know from years of backpacking that suspending a load on your hips feels a lot better than hanging it off your shoulders. Though it does have a few do-dads (water bottle pockets, large front stretch pocket, trekking pole attachment, ice ax loop, helmet keeper thing, external hydration bladder sleeve, slots for blinking light) basically, the pack itself is one big panel-loading compartment – which is what I wanted. The helmet keeper might even be useful sometime.

So it was the Osprey Talon 20. I chose one in red (for road visibility).

And I love the damn thing. I don’t know if I’ve ever been this happy with a purchase, especially one that I researched and agonized over so much.

The suspension actually works. No matter how heavy it’s loaded I can barely feel it on my back. We’ll see how cool it is when summer gets here – but they obviously put a lot of thought into the way it fits. It is customizable (there’s this weird Velcro panel inside the back that goes up and down to adjust to how long your back is) and after some fiddling I have it fitting me perfectly.

I was a little worried that at 20 liters it would be too small but since it is one big flexible space – it holds more than it looks like it does (I’ve even been able to fit a full-size photo tripod in there -which won’t go in anything else). I really have no negative thoughts about it at all. I take it to work every day – rode to the grocery store today and filled it along with both panniers. I even dug out an old hydration bladder and on one not-so-cold day rode around sipping water (it worked great).

I never thought I’d be so tickled pink over something as simple as a day pack – but it makes me very happy.

 

 

Upping My Bicycle Commuting Game – Part 3, A Christmas Present

“I had to ride slow because I was taking my guerrilla route, the one I follow when I assume that everyone in a car is out to get me. My nighttime attitude is, anyone can run you down and get away with it. Why give some drunk the chance to plaster me against a car? That’s why I don’t even own a bike light, or one of those godawful reflective suits. Because if you’ve put yourself in a position where someone has to see you in order for you to be safe–to see you, and to give a fuck–you’ve already blown it… We had a nice ride through the darkness. On those bikes we were weak and vulnerable, but invisible, elusive, aware of everything within a two-block radius.”
Neal Stephenson, Zodiac

 

Santa doesn’t seem to bring me things any more – maybe I haven’t been a good boy – so I tell people what I want for Christmas. And what I want is gift cards.

In this day and age – Amazon gift cards are best.That way I get what I want and I get the fun of figuring out what I’m going to order. Also, a lot of times what I want is too expensive for someone to buy me (such as a new camera), I can save up cards over Christmases and Birthdays until I have what I need.

For this Christmas, I cashed in a gift card and bought a new cycling jacket.

Cycling Jacket

There were myriads to choose from, in all price points, but after a lot of looking I decided on an ARSUXEO Winter Warm UP Thermal Softshell Cycling Jacket. In that crazy internet way things happen now – the next day it was sitting on my porch.

I have grand ambitions on bike commuting in 2020. I need to lose weight, up my fitness, and we’re short a car – so it’s on the bike to work I go. The ride is getting easy enough that the actual bike riding part in the best part of my day (the getting ready and changing clothes at work is the worst). Dealing with weather is tough – and even here in Texas, there are cold, windy days in the winter time. I’ve had a few days of riding around the ‘hood, and a couple of commutes in already.

The jacket works great. The key to getting in miles when the weather is whipsawing around is to layer effectively. I can go three or four layers under this thing, and peel some off if the sun comes out and the day warms. The jacket has some areas that let in the breeze – I can feel it when it is really cold, but necessary to evaporate out the sweat.

The best part is the visibility. That geeky green-yellow color is a lifesaver at dusk and dawn in Dallas rush-hour traffic.

So it’s time to charge my lights for tomorrow, make sure my tires are good, and get some sleep. Dawn comes early.

Upping My Bicycle Commuting Game – Part 2, Cockpit Storage

“To be in hell is to drift; to be in heaven is to steer.”
George Bernard Shaw

As I worked on commuting the 5 miles to work on a regular basis – I realized I needed storage attached to my handlebars to keep some stuff that I could reach without getting off my bike.

First, and most important, I needed a place to keep my badge. I work on the big Texas Instruments campus at Hwy75 and 635 (though I don’t actually work for Texas Instruments) on a little peninsula of Dallas sticking up into Richardson, Texas. I need a badge as I ride past the security gate to get onto the campus. I can’t really ride the whole way with the thing banging around on my neck (for safety and comfort) so I would stop a block short of the gate, dig around in my pack or panniers and put my badge on. Although the quick rest was good (help my heart slow down and a little less sweat) I didn’t like wasting all that time looking for my badge mixed in with all the rest of the stuff. I realized I needed something small on my handlebars to keep my badge.

Also, after trying a lot of lights, I prefer some knockoff lights with a USB on the end that I run from portable cell phone battery packs. They are cheap and I can carry extras as backup. But I needed something on my bars to carry the battery. I had been running the wires all the way to the bag on the back of my bike and it kept getting caught on stuff. Finally, I wanted a place to keep my phone and wallet that I could keep my eyes on. Peace of mind, you know.

My cockpit is crowded with lights, bell, plus interrupter brake levers and a standard handlebar bag would take up too much space. So I started looking around and asking other cycling commuters that I know what they use. They all recommended a feed bag style of stem bag.

Feed Bag Cycling Pouch

These looked useful and I was leaning this way. However – I didn’t like the shape – they seem designed for a water bottle and I already have three cages on my bike. What I wanted to store was flat in shape. Also, these seemed a bit pricey (I know, you get what you pay for… I am horribly cheap) – so I held off and kept looking.

After looking around I came cross these things – Toughbuilt Fastener Bag – Heavy Duty Mesh Window, Hanging Grommets

Toughbuilt Fastener Bags

These were inexpensive – 3 for around twelve bucks. I knew they’d be strong and well made. People (carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc.) that use these things don’t fuck around with stuff that breaks. Plus they were flat in shape, you could see into them, and had a stout metal grommet. So I bought some.

When they arrived I mounted one on the stem of my bike with a carabiner clip and an old bracket from a bike reflector that I had laying around. It worked great.

Toughbuilt Fastener Pouch on the stem of my commuting bike. It holds a battery pack, my badge, and usually my wallet and phone.

I know that my love for cheap gadgets and using things not for their original purpose is often self-defeating – but this is perfect – just big enough and it moves sideways through the wind without much resistance. I can keep an eye on my badge, phone, and wallet while I ride and get my badge out when I need it. In hot weather I keep a small paper towel in there too to wipe sweat or clean my glasses while waiting at a stop light. I’ve learned that with bike commuting – when you have to get out that door every morning – it isn’t only about what you carry – it’s about how you organize it.

These little indestructible pouches are a big help with the small things.

Upping My Bicycle Commuting Game – Part 1, Overview

Looking back over old journal entries I realized it has been over seven years since I first rode my bike to work:

I Need a Victory

Not long after that I wrote a detailed description of my ride home from work (at that time I was only commuting one way):

My Commute Home from Work

Over that vast span of time I have been up and down on the bike commuting… mostly down. However, lately, to aid in recovery from my sickness this summer and because of various things we now have three people at home with only two cars, I have been bike commuting more and more. Things have changed a lot since 2012 – I am riding a different bike now (a vintage Cannondale 1987 touring bike) and have recently done some serious route tweaking….

My 30 year old touring bike in The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

As a matter of fact, my two main bikes from 2012 – a Yokota Mountain Bike, and a vintage 1986 Raleigh Technium – have both been broken in the meantime and replaced.

My Technium on Winfrey Point, White Rock Lake. Dallas, Texas. Look carefully and you can see a guy on a unicycle.

Adios Technium

The ponds at Huffhines Park along my bike commute route. This is my old, long gone, Yokota mountain bike converted into a commuter.

Craigslist Commuter

My goal for 2020 is 3,000 miles – my commute is five miles each way – so if I commute every day for 300 workdays I’ll hit my goal. I won’t be able to commute by bike every day (weather, laziness, I often need to drive to other sites for work) so I will have to ride extra on the weekend and in the evening, plus I will count an hour on the spin bike as ten miles.

Like I mentioned, I have been doing some serious route tweaking – mostly for safety purposes. I’ll write later about what I’ve learned about bike safety riding daily in big city traffic – some of it is counter-intuitive. I was a bit peeved that, after working on my route, it turned out to be something like 4.95 miles each way… and that is less than my 10 miles per day goal. So I tweaked it a little more to add a couple tenths of a mile. I know that’s nuts – but a goal is a goal.

Here’s my current route home from the Texas Instruments campus to East Richardson – I’m pretty happy with it.

My bicycle commuting route home from work – 5 miles from the Texas Instruments campus at 75 & 635 to East Richardson

 

I’ll have to duplicate my 2012 entry and document my route. I can’t take photos on my commute – it’s dark now both ways – so maybe I’ll ride the route this weekend and take some pictures, then write it up.

Summers are tough, it is so hot here and I don’t have a shower available at work. I arrive drenched in sweat and have to towel off and change clothes in a handicap stall – not a lot of fun. The key is to get up really early, before dawn, and take my time.

Now, though, is another kind of problem. I hate being cold. But I’ve been working on my cold-weather gear, my layers. This morning it was right around freezing, which is pretty cold for Texas. I was nervous last night, I have ridden in the cold before, but never commuted in these temperatures. When I went out of the garage the ground was rimed with frost and clouds of vapor pulsed out of my mouth. I glanced at my car as I clipped in my pedals and noticed the glass was covered with ice.

At least when you bike commute in the cold, you don’t have to scrape your windshield.

As it turned out, I did fine. I was wearing multiple layers of various kinds of clothing and once I was moving and working I warmed up and was comfortable. Changing into my work clothes (and back again for the ride home) was a pain, but it is what it is.

This time of year I’m riding home in the pitch dark (on my trip in the sun is just beginning to peak over the horizon). Today was bad because there was some kind of wreck at Beltline and Greenville and traffic was spilling out onto all the neighborhood roads – the drivers were in a bad mood – angry and fast. That makes for much unpleasantness when you are on a tiny unprotected and vulnerable bicycle.

But I made it home, checked the forecast (cold again) and set out my gear for tomorrow morning. Another day, another ten miles.

What I learned this week, May 3, 2013


Stylish bike rider, French Quarter, New Orleans

Stylish bike rider, French Quarter, New Orleans

Here’s What Americans Don’t Get About Cycling — And Why It’s A Problem

Bike rider in front of the Winspear Opera House. If you are wondering, the photo is cropped and upside down.

Bike rider in front of the Winspear Opera House. If you are wondering, the photo is cropped and upside down.


Paul Thomas Anderson directing a film of one of Thomas Pynchon novels. This is truly the best of all possible worlds.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice to Begin Shooting this Month.

Now I’m waiting for an HBO series made from Gravity’s Rainbow.


It may be more of a coincidence than anything else, but I live in one of these and spend time every year in seven of the twelve, including the top five.

The Top 12 American Boomtowns

Dallas Skyline from the Soda Bar on the roof of the NYLO Southside hotel.

Dallas Skyline from the Soda Bar on the roof of the NYLO Southside hotel.


Quick Hits:
Two hot books to watch for
Spice Things Up in the Kitchen with Homemade Taco Seasoning
Do These 9 Things in Your Kitchen to Lose Weight
The Great Gatsby and 7 other hideous movie tie-in book covers
In Germany, a U.S. beer invasion
Forget the Unemployment Rate: The Alarming Stat Is the Number of ‘Missing Workers’
The old order is dying. We are living in the age of Farage
US Headed For The Coldest Spring On Record


When I first saw this, I thought, “Oh, this has to be fake.” As time goes by (and a couple of hours is an eternity in internet-time) it looks like it might be real. At any rate, it’s one hell of a strange photo, real or not.

Rays reporter Kelly Nash takes an impressively dangerous Fenway Park self-portrait


Why Workout Pain Is Good

The reason the saying “No pain, no gain” is so common is because it’s true: If you never feel discomfort when you exercise, you’re not getting all the benefits. What separates great athletes from mediocre ones isn’t only talent and training – it’s also how well they can handle discomfort.


I was tired, turned on the TV, and saw a little of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner – and was appalled. The phrase that kept wafting through my mind was, “let them eat cake.” The next day I found this article, which echoed my thought.

The Narcissism Of The White House Correspondents’ Dinner Hurting The Media’s Already Tarnished Brand

“The breaking point for me was Lindsay Lohan,” Tom Brokaw recently said. While this statement could apply to so many circumstances, he was specifically referring to the annual gala event known as the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. “[W]hat we’re doing with that dinner, as it has been constituted for the past several years, is saying, ‘We’re Versailles. The rest of you eat cake,’” Brokaw added in a striking rebuke of what the night (which has evolved into a whole weekend of festivities) has become. There will come a day soon when members of the press will ask themselves why they did not listen to Brokaw. The political media has a credibility problem, and the WHCD is not helping.

I guess I have a low tolerance for narcissism (hypocritical for someone that has a blog – the most narcissistic thing there is), especially in elected officials – which are supposed to be servants of the people.


10 books from the 21st century every man should read

A worthy list. I have read most of these, and the rest were on my to-read. It’s nice to see so many short story collections on here. The Road is not one of my favorite Cormac McCarthy novels. But its only competition in this century is No Country for Old Men – which I would give the nod to, but that is arguable. I’m going to have to look into those Author’s Picks.


Dove’s Fake New ’Real Beauty’ Ads

Very effective and heart-rendering… but it’s fake.



How to Make Taco Bell’s Crunch Wrap Supreme at Home

Nothing sums up the deliciousness of a Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme more concisely than the love letter to it on the daily humor website McSweeney’s. All of the Crunchwrap’s beauty is perfectly summarized in that piece: the convenience of not having to choose between a soft or crunchy tortilla, the patches of sour cream randomly placed throughout it, and a creamy, indulgent nacho cheese sauce that is the ying to the meat’s yang. And it’s all wrapped together in a soft tortilla shell that makes it easy to enjoy one-handed without making a mess.


You’ll Be Shocked by How Many of the World’s Top Students Are American

Raleigh Technium

I’ve been doing good – riding my crappy old mountain bike almost every day. Over the week of July fourth I took a couple days off – plus I’m commuting home from work at least a couple times a week (when I don’t have to go somewhere after work and I can get someone to drive me in) so I rode over ten miles each day for ten days straight. I’m not losing as much weight as I want (yet) but my bike riding fitness and skills are improving faster than I thought they would at my age.

The mountain bike works well as a cargo bike or a fitness bike. It’s inefficient so it works well to build fitness. With the panniers mounted it can hold a surprising amount of groceries or work clothes and stuff. Like me, it’s not very cool and it creaks in unexpected places – but it gets the job done.

But something was bugging me – tickling the back of my brain. Out in the garage is my old road bike, my Raleigh Technium 460.

I bought the bike back when I was a young, thin, serious bicycle rider… as best as I can remember that was 1986 or so. It was a very popular and common entry-level bicycle – but was innovative in its day. The three main tubes are aluminum – one of the first affordable aluminum bikes. To keep the cost down the rear triangle was steel. Instead of welding, it is all held together with custom swaged fittings and is glued with industrial epoxy.

At the time a lot of people were afraid of a bike held together with glue. Now, of course the best frames are carbon fiber… sheets of woven fabric impregnated with adhesives… so I guess the idea was proved out.

I loved that bike. I would ride it around White Rock Lake after work more days than not. Never a racer – I rode organized rides – including the infamous Wichita Falls Hotter than Hell a few times. On weekend I’d take long rides out from East Dallas north into country roads piercing the cotton fields around Frisco and Murphy (these are now endless tracts of suburban sprawl) until I’d fight my way home bonked, tired, thirsty, and with weird sunburns.

All that ended when my kids were born. I bought the mountain bike hoping to get in short rides here and there but the time it took to stay in riding shape was all soaked up by work and soccer practice. The road bike fell into disrepair and disuse. I thought about throwing it away but there was always some dusty, cobwebby corner of the garage where I could stuff the thing or some disused rafter where I could hang it.

I haven’t rode the Raleigh Technium for at least a dozen years.

But it was bugging me… so I took a look at it. It was dusty and a little rusty, but other than the tires, it seemed to still be in one piece. So I found some tubes and bought some tires (it has 27 inch tires instead of the now-standard 700c, so it was tough to find some to fit) and sat down with some solvent, soap, oil, and wrenches and had at it.

About five hours later I had black grease stains tattooed deep into my hands… but I also had a bicycle.

The Raleigh Technium – an example of bicycle technology of the 1980’s. I think bikes of that vintage are gorgeous in an almost sculptural way.

It sat there for a while… I had a surprising amount of trepidation about climbing on board. It was like a time machine had suddenly popped out of thin air and sat beckoning, the siren song of the past forever gone. Finally, as the sun was beginning to set I walked out to the bike path that runs behind my house, leaned on the bike, and swung my leg over.

The seat was set too high and my foot caught. Both me and the bike tumbled down hard on the pavement. I now have a big black bruise on my thigh from the motionless crash. I guess I’m not as flexible as I was over a decade ago. I pulled out my hex wrenches and lowered the seat a bit, raised the handlebar about the same, and set off again.

This time it was amazing. I slid my feet into the old-school toe clips (I have some Shimano Clipless pedals I will put on the bike soon) and hunched down over the dropped bars, pumping the long light alloy crank arms – I felt the bike shoot forward in a way the clumsy mountain bike can’t and won’t. It felt like a leg-powered rocket. It was a little unsteady, the steering more twitchy than I was used to but it didn’t take me long to get the hang of it. I looped around the ponds at the end of my block, came back along the trail, went down to Saigon City on Jupiter and then turned and rode along Duck Creek to Plano.

What surprised me was how much more efficient the road bike was in cutting through the wind and going up slight inclines. The lighter weight of the bike, more ergonomic positioning, and less wind resistance made so much difference. I must have been grinning like an idiot as I looped over the creek and started north along the Owens trail under the high tension lines.

Quickly, though, the front tire began making a noise and I realized I had a flat. As I dismounted to look at the tire, the seat dropped down against the tube – I had not tightened the bolt enough. Now I remember the rigors of road bike maintenance – patching the narrow high-pressure tires, trying to keep everything adjusted and lubricated, trying to keep the myriad bolts tight. I had shot away without any tools or even my phone so I had no choice but to walk my bike the mile or so back to the house.

I couldn’t find any reason for the puncture… but I looked at the box the tube came out of (I had the tube in a crate in the garage) and it said Oshman’s on the price sticker. Oshman’s went out of business over a decade ago – so I guess that’s why the tube went.

So, after work, I stopped off at the bike shop and bought new tubes and a portable pump, and made the bike ready again. This time I was able to make a long ride in the evening without any major problems – stopping a couple times to adjust the seat or brakes with the tools I carried. I rode until I wore myself out.

The thing is fun. Still, though, the back wheel is seriously out of true, the bottom bracket has an ominous click, and the seat needs adjusting. I need to dig through the garage for my long-idle bike tools (if they are still there) and then try and buy what I can’t find. I’d like to bring it… if not up-to-date, at least back to where it was in the waning years of the last century. The problem is that bicycle technology has passed it by – I find myself looking at new road bikes. Christ! The things are so expensive – I paid around five hundred dollars for the Technium… I think, back in the day. That was a lot of money but I was able to just go to the bike shop and write a check. I didn’t have the expenses then that I have now. I didn’t have two kids in private college. There is no way I can buy a five hundred dollar bike right now.

So, I’ll fix what I can and hope nothing else breaks. I’ll do what I can to muddle through. I’ll try to keep riding every day, keep expanding the times I commute by bike, get stronger, get thinner. I feel like I’m looking into a time machine, trying to roll the calendar backward. I have been here before, I’m here again – with the same hunk of steel, aluminum, and rubber. We’ll see what happens, won’t we.

Hugh’s Bicycle Blog – Raleigh Technium 460 Restoration Part 1

Part Two

I just purchased a lightly used Raleigh Technium bike from a garage sale for a few bucks.?

Raleigh Technium Fixie Project

All the Way Around

I have been working hard, riding my bicycle every day. I’m out of shape and too big and too old, but still I try.

One helpful thing is that I have done this before. I was a lot younger then, which makes it a lot harder now, but I know it can be done because it has been.

When I first moved to Dallas I was young and full of pee and vinegar, but I began to give in to my slothful and dissipative nature and started eating out too much and lounging around watching too much television. So I fixed my bike up and started to go our riding on a regular basis… at least four times a week. Now there are bicycle trails everywhere, but back then, in the early eighties, there was only one in Dallas, the White Rock Lake Trail. When I started, I lived on Lower Greenville… then I moved a little north to Lover’s Lane and Northwest Highway – and both gave access to White Rock Lake.

I remember the first few times I rode – I couldn’t make it all the way around. This can be problematic, because once you are on the other side of the lake, you have no choice but to ride back. Again, I was young then and the mileage started to increase quickly and before long, around I would go (it’s about nine miles around the lake).

Two memories stand out from those early circuits. Once, I was plugging up an uphill spot when a young woman passed me, standing on her pedals, and shot up the same hill like it wasn’t there. I thought this was the most beautiful thing I had seen – her power, her technique. It wasn’t long though, before I could do the same thing – without even thinking about it. That was a moment of pride.

One problem with riding back then was that it was a nice little downhill jaunt to get to the lake. That meant the last part of my ride, from the lake to my apartment was uphill. I had to be careful and make sure I had enough energy left to get up the hill. One day I miscalculated and had to use up every last bit of willpower I had to get back home. The problem was, I lived in a second story apartment, and there was no way I could make it up the stairs, especially carrying my bike. I had to lie down in the yard, next to my bicycle, for almost an hour, until I was rested enough to trudge up the stairs. I was surprised that nobody came out to see what was wrong with me (not that the people there were helpful – they were very nosy).

So now I’m at it again. The other day I made a list of the rides I wanted to do over my few days off around the fourth, and one was a circumnavigation of White Rock Lake – something I hadn’t done in decades. It brought back a lot of memories, mostly of when I was starting out. I’m riding an inefficient mountain bike, so it is good exercise. I carry plenty of water and my Kindle, and stop whenever I feel like it to read a few pages.

That’s a good time for me. Riding my bike in a nice spot, with memories flooding back, and stopping in bits of shade now and then… reading a bit, riding a bit. It doesn’t get much better than that.

My old Raleigh is hanging out in the garage. Maybe I’ll work on it, see if I can bring it back to life. It’s old, but it’s light and might still go faster and easier than my mountain bike. We’ll see.

I may be old, but I’ve done it before.

Where I started. I think this is the “runners’ lot” – the “cyclists’ lot” is a bit farther down the road. So sue me.

Near the north end of the lake there is a long pedestrian/bike bridge they built to get across an arm of the lake. Back in the day we had to ride on a narrow sidewalk along Mockingbird Lane – a very busy road. If someone was coming the other way… you could pass, but with no more than an inch to spare. It was frightening.

I stopped and visited with the folks at White Rock Paddle Company. I think I’ll go back there soon and rent a canoe. There’s some swampy backwaters I want to explore. It looks like fun.

The old art-deco bath house is now the Bath House Cultural Center and it has a nice sculpture and butterfly garden out front. It’s one of my favorite spots around the lake so I stopped there and read a couple short stories on my Kindle.

A view of the dam across the lake with the towers of Downtown Dallas poking up in the background.

The trail runs between the lake and the Dallas Arboretum. Here’s a bit of Chihuly visible through the trees. That sculpture is about thirty feet tall and is called “Yellow Icicle Tower.” I took a picture of it at night here.

This bench is one of my favorite spots on the West side of the lake. It’s a quiet shady spot. I remember sitting here years ago, taking it easy, though the area looked different back then. The plaque on the bench said that it was dedicated in 1998, so I must have sat there when it was new. These benches have bicycle racks built in to them, a very useful design.

Cottonwood Trail

I remember in the mid eighties when the White Rock Creek trail was built here in Dallas. The city was installing a new massive water line along the creek and they decided to construct a concrete trail along the top of the pipe. This was a new idea at the time – the trail was too narrow and poorly designed in many parts – but it was wonderful. I lived near the lake and after work I would ride my bike to the lake, around it on the White Rock Lake Trail, then up and back on the creek trail – a total of about twenty five miles – almost every day.

I was young and in good shape and the ride was a blast. I still remember the thrill of flying across the city without the worry of being hit broadside by a pickup truck. I loved riding after work because I could speed past the packed up and stopped rush-hour commuters on their crowded freeways. It was the best of times.

Since then I’ve been an advocate for hike and bike trails – and the city has come a long way. Now, I’m more of a spectator than anything else… but I do what I can.

For years I have been following the building of the Cottonwood Trail – a hike and bike trail that runs from Richardson down under the High Five Interchange at Highway 75 and LBJ 635, then south through Hamilton Park until it connects up with the White Rock Creek Trail. This is an important connector trail, enabling bicycle commuters to pierce a large part of the DFW metroplex by connecting long existing trails through areas of heavy traffic that are otherwise impassible by bicycle or on foot.

I attended a lot of meetings when the High Five was being constructed, because it was affecting the commute to work of thousands of employees at my work site. During the presentations of the enormous, expensive, and complicated plans for ramps, frontage roads, and levels of access I noticed a thin green line snaking down along the creekbed in the maps and diagrams. The legend said the green line was a “hike and bike” trail.

In true government fashion, when I would ask about the green line, they would stare at the diagram and say, “I have no idea what that is, we’ll check it out and get back to you.” I never heard from anyone. I had to wait years until the thing was finished and then park my car and walk down there.

Sure enough, beneath the massive construction, there was a hike and bike trail. A beautiful trail, wide, landscaped, lit, and carefully designed and built to all the newest specifications. There was only one problem with this trail. It went nowhere. It dead ended at each end of the massive interchange – truly a road to nowhere. They weren’t able to get the cities that bordered the interchange to commit to connect up with the trail.

For years this strip of pavement was the best homeless shelter you could imagine. I would visit it every now and then and the number of tents, campfires, and piles of sleeping bags near the broken-out lighting fixtures in the shelter underneath the ramps grew and grew.

Finally, the wheels of progress turned and after half a decade or so the trail began to reach out from either end of the High Five. Videos – Going South, and Going North.  I checked up on the progress, encouraged that the trail finally gave a safe bicycle route to the campus where I work.

There was one piece missing, though. The final little bit that connected the trail with the White Rock Creek Trail (the main spine of the trail system that runs through this part of Dallas – the one I enjoyed so much a quarter century ago) was missing. They were taking forever to finish the thing.

Now it is done. And today I had a couple hours to pack up my bicycle and try to ride along the thing.

I packed my crappy old bicycle into the trunk of my car and drove down to the Forest Lane DART station to hop on the final part of the trail. I bought this bike used for ninety dollars almost twenty years ago, so it’s not surprising that I’m having some trouble with it.

The engine, of course, is the worst. It’s old, worn out, and generally gone to shit, but I’m stuck with that. Otherwise, the seat is breaking apart and the derailleurs don’t shift very well any more. I did some work on the front shift levers, moving the adjustment knob to try and get the shifting to improve, but it didn’t seem to help.

I hopped on and headed off. The heat is a little less toxic than it has been, though it is still horribly dry here. Right away I was having trouble. It was a struggle to pedal and my legs were aching and my breathing a chore. I was beginning to feel a little spark of panic – it wasn’t supposed to be this hard.

Then I realized that I had been turning the wrong adjustment knob when I was working on the front derailleur. I had been tightening the front brake by mistake, and it was dragging the bike to a stop.

Fixing that helped a lot – though for the rest of the day I was panicked and tired.

At any rate, I had a good time. The little bit of trail seemed anti-climatic after all the years of anticipation, but that’s that. I wish the thing was there when I was riding all those years ago… or, really, I wish that I could ride like that again.

Old End

This is where the Cottonwood Trail ended the last time I rode it. This is in Hamilton Park, just south of the High Five Interchange.

Now

Here is the same spot now. Those "Trail Subject to Flooding" signs are everywhere, though I can't imagine a drop of water right now.

A little farther.

A little farther down the trail, where it crosses under Forest Lane. One reason the construction took so long is that there was a lot of work involved in this road crossing and the creek bridge.

Forest Lane DART station

The entry to the trail at the Forest Lane DART station.

Bicycle Lockers

Cool looking bicycle lockers at the DART station.

Creek Bridge

The bridge over Cottonwood Creek. Another "Trail Subject to Flooding" sign. Wishful thinking. I don't know where the trickle of water still in the creek comes from.

Rest Area

The trail runs through some thick woods between the train line and the creek south of Forest Lane. There is a nice rest area built there. This homeless guy was sitting in the rest area, reading and writing in his notebook. We talked about the weather and I helped him find a lost sock.

White Rock Creek

The southern terminus of the Cottonwood Creek trail, where it connects with the White Rock Creek Trail. The DART train is crossing White Rock Creek over the trail.