Showing posts with label commuting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label commuting. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Things I Bring To Work!

There are worse things than having Wan Ming follow me to work. This time I managed to grab a long sleeve RANTWICK shirt of my wife's thinking it was a t-shirt of my own. No undershirt for me today. I prefer to wear an undershirt, so that is a minor annoyance.
Next, I discovered a pair of girl's underpants on my office floor. They had a pretty little bow on the waist and everything. Must have fallen off the shirt when I pulled it out of the pannier. Great. Thank you, static cling... what if I hadn't seen them? What if the next visitor to my office had found them instead? Gah!
At least I successfully brought a pair of my own undies this time. Someday I will leave the house in an organized, unhurried fashion. Someday.
Yer Pal,

Monday, August 8, 2011

Encounters with Rantwick, episode seventeen: I Am a Cat 6 Racer

I am completely unfamiliar with organized competitive cycling of any kind. I don't even ride in a group, ever. Don't pity me though. For me, the solitude is part of what makes a bike ride beautiful. Commutes, even. Like some other commuters, however, I am afraid I'm a bit of a Cat 6 racer.

I had to research a little bit about competitive cycling in order to explain that label here. The short version is that real bicycle racers compete in Categories based on their skill level. Category 1 is for elite cyclists who compete at the National and International level. Category 5 for men and 4 for women is where beginners at racing do their thing. "Cat 6" is not a real category. It is used as a euphemism for the informal racing that people on the street or path sometimes engage in, often spontaneously. I am a Cat 6 racer and I am AWESOME. Check this out:

Yer Pal,

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Cycling - What Cold Looks Like

When you dress for commuting by bike in temps below freezing, you account for the fact for the fact that your body will be working and generating heat. I mean, if you dressed for standing waiting at a bus stop, you would overheat badly.

If you find yourself slightly under dressed or cold while riding, you can usually change your gearing and/or cadence and warm yourself up. That's why this is what cold looks like:

I've read forum/comment stuff that says when it comes to winter clothing, "cotton kills"!  In a retaining moisture / sweat and freezing you to death while trekking through the mountains sense, that is absolutely true. In a Rantwick riding with cotton jammies (yes, the same ones I slept in) under rain pants in the middle of a comfy city sense, cotton and a general belief that you will be moving constantly makes you cold when a stupid slow train gets in your way.

I was never in danger of freezing to death. If things had gotten really bad, I could have just turned around and ridden my bike in circles or around blocks to stay warm. I chose to sit there with the cars and get cold. For the winter commuting cyclist, trains (or other lengthy stoppages) are what cold looks like. In any case, I'm not going to be so lazy with my clothing choices any more... I have lots of good moisture wicking stuff I should have been wearing.

I'm gonna cool it with the blog thing over the next couple of weeks I think. Vote for your FARATS tree and have a phenomenal new year, everybody! I'll be back then to make a big fuss about mailing maple syrup an so on.

Good vibes to all, and to all a good night!

Yer Pal,

Friday, September 24, 2010

Commuting by Bicycle: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Yesterday was an interesting commuting day. Here's a video that sums it up:

Yer Pal,

Thursday, September 16, 2010

An Observation on Chic Commuting by Bike

Being an online bike guy, I read lots and lots of stuff about bicycle commuting, and I'm getting kind of tired of one popular notion about commuting by bike. It is that it is feasible and/or easy to commute in the clothes you plan to wear all day.

When the weather is nice and the temperature just right, one can indeed commute to work and back without becoming a sweaty mess or a sopping wet one. That means that depending on where you live, you might be able to wear your regular work clothes quite a few times without incident. My concern is that people who plan to do it this way will inevitably get caught in the rain or get their clothes dirtier than planned sooner or later. That experience will suck, and they may be less inclined to ride next time.

Don't get me wrong; I don't think everybody needs to get all bike-specific with their commuting clothes (although bike clothes do dry more easily while you work). Keeping your work clothes dry and clean on the way in or leaving enough clothes at work on the weekend or whatever will prevent the aforementioned nasty experiences and make you more likely to keep it up.

Another bonus of commute clothes vs. work clothes is that you are more likely to ride harder and/or have more fun. Yes, you may sweat more, but some deodorant and a towel are enough to be fresh and pretty after you change for lots of people, at least the ones who shower every day. I don't know about you, but I commute by bike mainly for the sheer fun of it. Different clothes = more fun. That means that even fair weather only riders could be having more fun too.

I know some people are into this cycle chic thing, but I just don't get it. I mean, many of their bicycle choices are driven by the fact that they will be wearing "lovely shoes and trousers/skirt" (see the fenders section)... are these chic people really going to remain regular bike commuters in the long term? Not after the rain and sweat and dirt of commuting makes them look un-chic at work a few times. C'mon, chic people, instead of reducing the fun of cycling in order to increase the fun of wearing stuff, including your bicycle, just drop the high style and let your bike sing! A dutch city bike just looks like a depressed pack mule to me. That is what happens when you make a beautiful machine a mere servant of your clothes. Even if you really like that style of bike, why not do it some justice and ride the hell out of it instead of using it as an accessory?

You know what? Who am I to tell you what to do? Get your kicks however you like. Might I suggest, however, that a set of clothes separate from those you intend to wear at work all day would allow you to 1) ride more days of the year and 2) offer the opportunity to wear TWO fabulous outfits every day! The healthy glow and relaxed good nature that really commuting for fun will give you, combined with your awesome clothes, will make you even more attractive, I promise!

Yer Pal,

PS - Rain gear only makes your work clothes that much more hot and uncomfortable to ride in. Please feel free to argue with this or any of my points in the comments.

PPS - Counter-point comments of reasonable depth have been coming in... I invite you to read them, because cycling starts with balance.

Monday, September 28, 2009

If You Were Riding the Bicycle #2

Sometimes it seems like no two cyclists will approach a situation the same way. In this scenario, you'll see several different approaches to a situation, and I would like your feedback on what you would do. Here's some lead-up:

In London Ontario there's a spot where the MUP (Multi-Use Pathway) joins York Street at Wortley Road. Lots of commuters and other cyclists hit that point after work each day. It's always interesting negotiating with traffic at this spot, but this time there was just one car in play.

Amazingly, all 5 cyclists aim to ride on the street, southbound on Wortley Road. The Private Drive I use runs next to a Law Office and a small apartment house. One of my questions is whether I should use it or not. It is marked Private Drive, but it also puts me in what I consider the best spot for crossing the intersection. The other 4 cyclists used the pathway, which is part of the reason they were piled up on the sidewalk in various spots.

So, here's the video showing what we all did:

What would you do if you were riding the bicycle?


Monday, August 3, 2009

Bike Commuting with Clothes: Childish Mistakes

I carry the clothes I plan to wear on any given work day with me in my awesome panniers. I leave shoes and several pairs of pants at work, but I carry undies, socks and shirt with me each day. The panniers are just big enough to bring all the pants and my towel and stuff home on Fridays for a wash. It is a system that is working really well for me. Most of the time.

Because every morning is a mad rush, I usually grab these items from piles of recently folded and sorted but not yet put away laundry. This level of disorganization can result in my arriving at work with my son's clothing instead of my own. One day last week I unpacked my things to get changed and found that the pair of socks that looked OK rolled up actually belonged to my 8 year old son. The sock below has been pre-stretched by my putting it on before having the idea for this post. I then removed it and took this picture with my cycling shoe, to give you an idea of its size relative to my foot:

They were quite big for little guy socks, and pretty stretchy, so rather than wear the white sport socks I cycled in with black work shoes, I just stuffed my feet into them anyway. This resulted in somewhat comical ankle socks:

I still think this is better than the dreaded white socks with black shoes look (if you wear white socks with everything, my apologies; keep your own style goin' there, friend). Also please note that I wear long pants at work, so I wasn't laying any of that skin action on my co-workers. This was not the first time I had accidentally brought kid stuff instead of my stuff. When underpants are just lying in an unfolded pile (folding undies is madness, in my opinion), a pair of boy's jockeys look an awful lot like a pair of men's jockeys. Since I did a "scale comparison" with the sock, here's one with underpants!

I chose a pair of cycling shorts because believe it or not, I draw the line at posting pictures of my undies; although it would seem posting pictures of my son's jockeys doesn't bother me at all. It kind of makes sense; little boy undies can be seen as "cute"... something quite impossible for grown man underpants, I'm sure you'll agree.

Some of you may already know something about the size of my butt, so you'll understand when I say that there was no way I could pull anything like the preceding sock trick with these little suckers. Have you ever gone commando at work? I have. I didn't like it, not one little bit.

I will try to write about something more normal and less disturbingly personal next time. Please come back. I'll be normal, I promise!


Monday, June 8, 2009

When Busier is Better

When you ride your bicycle on the road and act just as a car or motorcycle would act, you are engaging in "Vehicular Cycling". As a year-round bike commuter, I use a mix of riding styles depending on the context. When there is room for me to ride on the right and allow vehicles to pass without having to come too close even when there is opposing traffic, I do so, noting that I never ride as far right as the gutter. I strongly suspect that my version of "too close" is a little closer and scarier than many cyclists would advise, and I am probably assuming more risk than I should, but I'm OK with it for now. I spend 99% of my time on the street, but I have been known to ride on short stretches of sidewalk when it makes sense to me. I never ride a sidewalk with pedestrians on it... that's one of the times it stops making any sense. I treat most Stop signs as Yield signs, and obey all traffic lights with extremely rare exceptions. When it comes to intersections, I go into full VC (Vehicular Cyclist) mode, merge with traffic and use the left or right turn lanes as any car would. I queue jump on the right when it seems safe enough and doable, and on the odd occasion squeeze through gaps between cars and curb that I probably shouldn't.

As you may have guessed, it would be wrong to characterize myself as a true blue Vehicular Cyclist, but I have been hanging out on blogs and web sites that are committed to VC lately. Some of that content has begun to rub off on me, and I am finding myself practicing VC in more situations than I used to. This blog entry is about a section of my "late for work" shortest commuting route that has been made ten times easier by being a Vehicular Cyclist, taking the whole lane and riding on a very busy street rather than on some quiet ones.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and so a video must be worth several million! Please watch the videos that follow for a summary of what I've been writing about. Since I have stopped doing this part of my route the old way, I rode the streets I used to after work in order to get the comparison video; thus the difference in sunlight angle/time of day.

Video 1: My Old, Quiet Street Way

Video 2: My New, Busy Street Way

Ironically, if I were driving my car, I may well follow the "quiet" route in Video 1 in an effort to skip the slow-down associated with the light. On a bicycle, however, I don't have the power or size to just shoot out into traffic the way I could in my car, and using the flow-control features of the big intersection saves me valuable "late for work" seconds or even minutes and lowers my risk and stress. Sometimes, busier is better.

Thanks to stuff like this, I can actually enjoy riding in traffic.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Onions, Heavy Rain and Traffic Snarls - What Could Be Better?

Last week, I had a super ride home. I always enjoy my rides, but this was extra good, because the weather and the traffic were really bad. Allow me to explain. Shortly before the end of my work day, thunder rolled and the skies opened up. A really nice woman in my office came by just as I was getting off the phone with my wife. She looked out the window and said, "so is your wife picking you up?" I said, "no way! I didn't build up my bike with full fenders only to miss out on a really good rain!" She noticed a bag of onions I had bought as part of a fundraiser (yes, onions) and said, "but how are you going to get those home?" I told her they would fit in one of my panniers, so all was well. Then, in her most motherly and caring voice, she said, "but you'll get wet onions!" I gave her a look, at which point she realized what she had said, turned, and walked away shaking her head. I started my ride in a great mood.

Now, I had promised my wife I could be home by 5, because she had an appointment and I needed to be home with the kids so she could make it. I had 25 minutes to make it home, which was fine because my shortest route takes about 20. It was raining hard, but warm. My bike was performing perfectly with its fenders, mud flap and truly waterproof panniers. I was pretty happy.

When I got onto the streets, I found that for some reason beyond the usual construction the traffic was horrible... which was great! In the videos that follow, you will hear my mental soundtrack as I rolled along. If my mental soundtrack sounds terribly corny or campy, it is because I have spent months re-training my brain to only use royalty-free music that won't get blocked or removed by video sharing web sites. Yes, I have given up playing good mind music for the sole purpose of creating honest online video. Pity me, because I really like good music.

Passing right by frustrating, time-wasting traffic jams is one of bicycle commuting's greatest pleasures... I was elated. North/South traffic was at a crawl on every major street. Here's the lineup heading South on Wellington at Grey St:

And on Carfrae, where I myself turned south, even more fun!

You know that van that I think was trying to pinch me? No word of a lie, as I snuck past him, my rear tire pinged a small stone off his hubcap as though my bike was ticked off too and had found a way to express itself. Never have so many small things come together to make riding in traffic so much fun.

I don't know how many cars I left behind on this particular ride. I do know that had I been in one, getting home by 5 as promised would have been utterly impossible. Most days, I can't quite keep up with cars. On that day, however, not only did being on a bike pay off in all the usual ways, but it got me home with one minute to spare. And, in case you were wondering, my Vidalias stayed perfectly dry.

Try it; You'll Like It.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Enough Said

My Dad died one week ago. I am not really looking to discuss his passing online, but he did have a little something to say about commuting by bicycle.

When I was home this/last summer, I mentioned to my Father that I had become a commited bicycle commuter, rain or snow or shine.

Always a man of few words, my Dad said, "good for you. Do you have fenders?" I replied that yes, I have full fenders, in fact, fenders I had to special order to meet my exacting standards. He had very little interest in my standards, but responded by saying, "oh good. I see these guys riding around town with stripes of dirty water up their backs and I think they look idiotic".

Enough Said.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My Spitting Image

I have discovered something unseemly about myself while engaging in the winter cycling I'm so fond of. I spit. Quite a lot. I'm not sure how I feel about it. It is never great to see somebody spit in public, but I must confess that I feel a certain amount of licence when exerting myself quite hard in the cold. It is definitely related to the cold; I rarely (if ever) spit in the summer while I ride. I am torn about whether I should try to stop it... my self-image is not that of a spitter.

Spitting is something that is accepted as part of many sports. I suppose I could just chalk it up to being a exercise/sport thing. The trouble is I'm not in an arena or on a ball diamond; I'm on the street, surrounded by cars and people who are not there to watch me ride my bike and spit.
So, what should I do? I could swap my Balaclava for one of these:

I'm guessing that thing would straighten me out in a hurry. The problem is that you can only buy them in quantities of 100 for almost $700. It would seem that those into controlling spit are in it for the long haul.

In the interest of compromise, I thought perhaps there was a polite way to spit. After almost 44 seconds of searching, of course I found this "eHow" article. WARNING: there is nothing polite about these instructions. I also disagree with the final instruction to "blow as hard as possible". I think that's a recipe for the sort of uncontrolled venting that would look extra rude and weird.

I could get retro and use an antique spittoon, which apparently is also an exemplary inheritance for young nieces...

Your spouse wanted to give his niece the ugly, antique spittoon. This would be called a specific devise of tangible personal property.

I am at all times an aesthete, so I would locate a bike well suited to this wonderful piece:

However, I'm no slave to form over function! I'm not some freak who cares only for how I look while I expectorate. My solutions must be effective and simple and lend themselves to efficient commuting. I do believe I have arrived at the answer.

Drool all you like, it's MINE! I'll be doing a production run of my system as soon as I find 99 more antique spittoons, and you can buy it then if you like.