Tag Archives: Bicycle

Enjoy The Ride

I usually listen to my iPod while I am riding. Mostly I listen to podcasts or audiobooks. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy listening to music too, and it can be helpful if the beat is in time with the cadence you want to achieve. I just find listening to music to be a safety concern because it is hard to hear what is going on around you. When I listen to spoken audio, there is just a monotone voice with enough “gaps” to hear what you need to hear.

The reason I listen to these podcasts and audiobooks is because I have a bit of an obsession. I have a hard time just living in the moment. I always feel like I need to be doing something productive or learning something, and if I can do something and learn something at the same time then all the better. Perhaps that is why I like to commute to work on my bicycle. It allows me to get exercise and it gets me to work.

The other day I finished listening to everything on my iPod while riding to work and then felt like a drug addict looking for an audio fix for my ride home. I ended up plugging my headphones into my phone and I listened to the comedy channel on Pandora when I left work.

I didn’t get very far when I realized how stupid I was. I know how pleasurable it can be to just ride with no distractions but somehow I seemed to have forgotten that. I immediately put my headphones away and just enjoyed the scenery for the rest of the trip.

Of course, the scenery isn’t always worth looking at. Part of my ride is through an industrial park. I also ride through residential areas and down very congested streets. But there are a number of natural areas that are quite beautiful with plenty of wildlife. I find I notice way more on a bike than in a car and I notice even more yet when I have no added distractions.

On the way home today I watched an osprey fly by carrying a fish and as he flew over a tree that I was about to pass, a beautiful hawk flew out of the tree. I also passed a photographer who had his camera on a tripod and was photographing a stream from the top of a foot bridge. As I passed I noticed what a great picture that was.

I don’t suppose I will learn to completely suppress my desire to learn while I ride but I think I will split the difference and shut my iPod off when the traffic is heavy, for safety reasons, and when I am able to just enjoy the ride.

I’d like to know what you think. What do you listen to, if anything, and when do you listen to it?


The Curse of the Clipless Pedals

In spite of the title, I really do like my new clipless pedals but I have come to realize there is an added risk of injury while using them. From the time I bought my recumbent bike until I bought the clipless pedels eight months later, I fell off my bike a total of zero times, although I did have one or two close calls. In the 30 days since putting on the clipless pedals I hit the ground four times, and this was during a month were I had many problems getting out on the bike and only logged about a hundred miles.

To be fair, the first fall was not unexpected as I was trying to get used to unclipping. The second one was when my chain fell off and I lost my balance. The last two happened Monday morning within a block from my work.

I mentioned before that there is a small percentage of my ride where I use the sidewalk instead of the street because, until yesterday, I thought it was safer. I was on the sidewalk, not far from my work when I spotted a kid (I want to say “little bastard” but this is a family blog) coming toward me on his bmx bike like a bat out of hell. He was peddling as fast as he could and he was traveling in anything but a straight line. I slowed way down, expecting him to do the same, but he just kept coming as fast as he could. It was like a game of chicken and I lost.

I steered off the sidewalk to avoid a collision. I probably should have yelled. “Slow down you young wipper snapper,” but I guess I am not ready for that yet. Since I had already slowed down too much, when I hit the grass I was going too slow to keep my balance and I tried to unclip fast enough to catch myself, but the half second delay was too long.

I wasn’t hurt, just a little pissed at the…kid. I got back on the bike and traveled another two or three hundred feet until I was just across the street from my work. I looked behind me and saw there were cars coming but I had plenty of time to cross so I turned to the left and my rear wheel came out from under me and I hit the ground hard.

I was in the middle of the road with cars coming so I quickly got up, even though I was in pain, and limped to the center of the street. By then one car had already stopped and the others were slowing down. I was in too much pain to be embarrassed. I limped across the street, unlocked the door and brought my bike inside. I then had to sit down because the adrenalin had made me nauseous.

At first I attributed the accident to being distracted by what happened three minutes earlier but my co-worker pointed out something that made much more sense. He said the grass I rode onto was probably wet. That would explain everything. The bottom of the wheels had dried from the short ride but the sides were still wet, so when I leaned into the turn, the wet part of the wheels contacted the road and down I went.

It is just another example of how one bad thing can lead to another. I think the next time something happens that is bad enough to speed up my heart rate, I might just stop for a few minutes before resuming.

The ride home was difficult because, besides my leg being cut up, my butt hurt like hell. I pushed my seat forward a little because sitting forward was fine but leaning back was painful and this allowed me to push back farther in the seat so I was less reclined. Unfortunately, as a recumbent rider, less reclined in still reclined. It was the first time since I owned the bike that I would have traded it for a conventional bicycle.

I am still relatively new to the clipless pedals so I am sure I will get better at unclipping but I believe there will always be a slight delay and I will have to accept that risk. I also think it is possible that sitting upright on a conventional bike might be less risky. I don’t know. Perhaps someone with more experience could leave a comment on the subject. For now, I think once my butt heals, I will continue what I was doing but perhaps I will try to anticipate problems a unclip a bit sooner.


Seven Days, No Bike

Lately I’ve been too busy to write but now I’m bored so I thought I would bore you with my problems. Just kidding, they are not problems, but rather, opportunities for improvement. Believe it or not, I actually welcome a minor issue with my bike every now and then, as long as it does not leave me hurt or stuck somewhere. This is because I need to learn how to repair and maintain my bicycle and if it is not broken, I will not be motivated to work on it.

Last Monday, the shifter knob for the rear gears broke and left me stuck in high gear. This was not a major issue, because Florida is pretty flat and most of my ride is in that gear anyway. One notable exception is a bridge I go over on the Upper Tampa Bay Trail.

Upper Tampa Bay Trail

Upper Tampa Bay Trail

It’s hard to tell from the angle of the above picture but the bridge gets somewhat steep and I usually shift to an easy gear while I go over the bridge. This time, I changed the front gear, which I usually leave on the center sprocket, and the chain fell off. This caused me to lose my balance and, since I have not fully adjusted to the clipless peddles, could not unclip my right foot in time and fell over. Another cyclist saw this happen and asked if I was okay. I told him I was more embarrassed than hurt. Fortunately the rest of the ride home went fine.

When I got home I was tired and did not feel like working on the bike so I decided to drive to work on Tuesday and fix it that evening. I picked a good day to drive because it was a rainy day.

I had a new shifter knob that I bought months ago as a set when the other one broke. I thought about changing them both at once but then got lazy. So after work on Tuesday I took the broken knob off and put the new one on. It came with a cable so I threw the old cable away and snaked the new cable through the old sheaths, or whatever the official name is for the cable covers.

When I got them all the way through I discovered the cable was too short. I suppose it was designed for a standard bicycle, which my recumbent bike is not. I ended up pulling the short wire out of the shifter knob and fished the old wire out of the trash. I thought I could just thread it back through the knob but I needed to take it apart. When I did a small plastic piece popped out. I wasn’t expecting that and had no Idea where it went back in.

It took awhile but I finally figured out how to get the wire in and put the two pieces back together, minus the little plastic piece. Leftover parts are common, right? I then had to thread the old wire back through the covers but the end was frayed so I had to cut the last inch off. This worked almost good enough except there was always one strand that stayed out while the others went in. I kept cutting the wire shorter and the same thing kept happening until finally I got it to work, except now it was also too short.

I was determined to ride my bike on Wednesday so I decided to make sure my front shifter was properly adjusted, which I did, but noticed another problem while I was doing that. The adjustment on my rear brake was broken and one pad was rubbing against the tire. It must have happened when I fell over. I thought it seemed a bit harder to pedal but I did not consider that I had another problem. I guess I wasn’t going to ride to work Wednesday after all.

I ordered the parts I needed from Amazon on Wednesday and since I have the Amazon Prime, I got free two-day shipping, so they arrived on Friday. I put them on Saturday with few problems and I am ready to ride to work on Monday. The only problem is that Monday morning is going to be around 40 degrees and since I am a cold wimp and since I have not yet bought good cold weather cycling clothes, I think I will wait until Tuesday.

The Ignorant Motorist

The first mile or so of my trip home is on a relatively busy road. It has two lanes in each direction with a center median but no bike lane, or even a shoulder to speak of. I typically ride on the sidewalk until I reach the Upper Tampa Bay Trail. Once on the trail, it is quiet enough for me to call my wife to let her know I am on my way.

This afternoon, I made it a few blocks from work and noticed several people walking on the sidewalk so I waited for the traffic to clear and then got on the road to go around them. There were two or three groups of people on the sidewalk so I decided to stay on the road until I passed all of them. The traffic was light because the bulk of the traffic was stopped at a red light about a block behind me.

That is when a car came up behind me and slowed to my speed. As it approached, I notice the window was open and a young man was sitting in the passenger seat. A young woman was driving and she leaned over to say something to me. I have had several people comment about my bicycle because, believe it or not, there are still people who have never seen a recumbent bike. I assumed I was going to hear a comment about how she liked my bike, but instead she yelled, “Hey! You need to be riding on the sidewalk!”

I was a bit shocked. I wanted to say, “Are you kidding me?” but she sped up past me before I could reply. I actually wanted to say something much worse and then I wanted to ask her why she had the right to be on the road and I didn’t, but the moment had passed and all I could think to do was yell “Thank You! and wave so she could see me in her mirror. Then I flipped her the bird. I know I shouldn’t have done that but she just irritated the hell out of me.

The funny thing was, I was not slowing her down. She had plenty of room to go around me. It was as if, in her mind, she was doing me a favor by letting me know bikes are not allowed on the road. Can people really be that stupid? And it wasn’t just her. Her boyfriend, or whoever he was, opened his window and went along with it.

I have always been amazed at two things: The height of human intelligence and the depth of human stupidity. These two fell into the later category. For much of the rest of the trip home I felt irritated by what happened. I was listening to an audio book on my iPod and had to keep rewinding it because my mind was wandering.

I am well aware that a cyclist can slow down traffic and I try to do my best to be respectful to drivers and minimize that as much as possible. In this case, I knew that I could pass all the pedestrians and be back on the sidewalk before the heavy traffic arrived. It didn’t matter. It seems there is always going to be that ignorant asshole that thinks the world revolves around them and nothing you do will make them happy.

I try to empathize with drivers, which is not hard to do because I am one, and I honestly don’t remember ever being upset because a cyclist was on the road, even before I rode my bike on a regular basis. The only exception would be when my wife and I came up behind a bunch of cyclist on a group ride. We were on a back road in an industrial area. There was no traffic so the cyclists had spread out across the entire road, including the oncoming lane, making it impossible to pass them, so we had to follow them at ten miles per hour for several minutes until we could turn. If there ever was a reason to roll down the window and yell at a cyclist, this was it, but we just patiently waited for our chance to turn and went on our way.

Sometime I think about moving to a small town in Wyoming where everybody knows one another and nobody is in a hurry, but then I would miss all the drama.

Dirty Helmet Plus Rain Equalls Bad Idea

I guess I let the cat out of the bag with the title I chose. I wanted to ease into my embarrassment gently so instead of laughing at my stupidity you would have sympathy for me. Then I thought, “The hell with it.” I will put myself out there as a bad example so you can not only enjoy a good laugh but also learn from my mistake.

When I left for work on Thursday the forecast was for a thirty percent chance of rain for my trip home. I understood this to be a seventy percent chance of staying dry. I also knew the nature of Florida rains tended to be brief and isolated. I thought if it did rain, I could go inside somewhere and wait it out if it was bad. What I didn’t consider was that those short, isolated rains were more a product of the summer, not winter.

When I left work there was a slight cold drizzle and it was pretty obvious that the rain was everywhere and it was not going to stop anytime soon. Fortunately, I brought my rain jacket with me so I put it on and gave into the fact that this was not going to be my most pleasant ride.

The rain seemed to gradually increase as I went and about thirty minutes into the ride it was a moderate shower. That was when my eyes started burning. Acid rain was the first thought that entered my mind but I knew that was crazy. Then it hit me: My helmet was dirty. It was then that I started tasting it and my ride quickly went from unpleasant to disgusting.

I cursed myself the rest of the way home because I knew I needed to wash my helmet but I always thought about it while I was on the bike, then I forgot when I got home, or I put it off because I was tired and then forgot later.

Perhaps I needed a wake-up call because I didn’t forget this time. In fact, I think I will start using my calendar program to remind me to do these important tasks. I’ll start tomorrow…if I remember.

Cycling Is For The Dogs

Yesterday morning, shortly after I started my ride to work, I was chased, quite persistently, by a dog. The owner of the dog was frantically yelling for the dog to stop, but to no avail. Eventually it tired of chasing me and turned around. This was the second time in two trips that I was chased by a dog. This time the dog was relatively small but I have been bitten before by small dogs and I know they have no consideration of their size when confronting someone who is much bigger.

I learned this when I was a teenager and was helping my friend deliver newspapers. A small dog guarded the sidewalk at the edge of one of the houses on my list. I decided to very forcefully walk to the house like I owned the place, assuming I would intimidate the little dog into retreating. Instead, he attacked, biting me in the leg.

Of course, this does not mean I live in fear of little dogs, quite the contrary. I like dogs and I know that the best way to avoid an attack is to stay calm. In another instance when I was younger, a friend and I were walking on a trail behind some houses when two Dobermans spotted us and started barking and running towards us. I had a great pet dog at the time which happened to be a Doberman so I knew what to do. I told my friend to stay calm and show no fear. I was fairly certain this would work but I never tested it before. Sure enough, the dogs barked and growled until the moment they reached us and then just started smelling us. By this time, the owner was yelling at his dogs to come back.

I have been chased by several dogs while riding. I encountered two more dogs on the trip to work yesterday morning. The second dog was big, possibly a Great Dane, Running loose on the Upper Tampa Bay Trail. The owner was far behind and apparently oblivious to the leash laws, like so many other dog owners. Fortunately this dog was more interested in running free than he was of me.  The last dog of the morning was interested in me and gave chase for a while before giving up.

Each time I am chased I just keep riding like nothing is happening. I am not an expert but I think the dog’s goal it to chase away threats. Attack is what they do when their first strategy fails.

On the way home from work I was chased by another dog. I started thinking, “What the hell is wrong with people?” Why are there so many people who think the leash laws don’t apply to them? I understand dogs like to run free, and I think they should, but only in appropriate surroundings, like a dog park or rural area. Are people not aware that if their dog bites someone, the county could take their dog and put it down? I would not want to risk that. I also wouldn’t want to risk the well-being of another person. No matter how well-behaved a dog is around its master, it will behave differently around a stranger.

I know the odds of a cyclist being bit by a dog are very low. For now I will just keep doing what I am doing and hope the odds don’t catch up to me.

About five minutes after the dog chased me on the way home, I was still thinking about all the things I mentioned above when I saw an animal running towards me from my right. It was dark at that point and even though I was close to merging with the busiest road in the area, this road was somewhat rural and not well lit.

My first thought was, “Great, another dog is coming to chase me down.” I watched it run onto the street right in front of me, but instead of coming after me, it continued across the street and squeezed under the guard rail. It was a bobcat.

Oh, the things you see while riding a bicycle.

Bobcat path

Google map view of where I was when bobcat crossed my path

Change of Scenery

The other day I decided to take a different route to work. I was looking for a change of scenery and found a way to work that seemed safe and added a mile and a half to my ten-mile trip. Since I actually wanted to ride a little further this seemed like killing two birds with one stone.

The new route was easier. I got on the road near my home and stayed on it for at least half the trip. It was a busy road but it went through a newer part of town so it was well planned with bicycle lanes the entire trip. It was also good because it allowed me to keep a faster pace than usual. I actually spent part of the ride passing cars that were stuck in traffic. Since I didn’t have so many turns and stops, I made it to work in one hour and five minutes, just about my usual time on the shorter ride.

Unfortunately, it seems with every silver lining there is a dark cloud. I assume Florida is not home to every idiot driver in North America but it sure has more than its share. I talked about bicycle lanes in another post, Riding on Sidewalks. In that post I mentioned almost getting hit by the mirror of a passing truck. This time I had a car drift into the bike lane and barely miss me. That forced me over to the far right of the lane where a pickup truck,  two vehicles later, also drifted into the bike lane. I guess I was lucky the first car forced me over. It also seemed that every large vehicle, such as buses, would come uncomfortably close when passing me.

If anyone is curious, I recorded that trip and a few others using mapmyride.com. They have a nice feature that uses Google Earth to show a “Flyover” of the route. I tried to embed the video code directly into this page but for some reason it did not work. Some of my maps are private because they go directly to my home so if one does not work, try another. If you sign up, feel free to send me a friend request.

I decided to stick with my older route for now and rode home from work that way. If I want a change of pace I will have to go riding on the weekends, but that is time reserved for my wife. We bought her a bike a few months ago but it was too hot for her then. After that, her seat hurt so I bought her a comfy seat but then her wrists hurt from leaning forward on the ride. I few weeks ago I looked at another recumbent bike that I would really like to have but can’t afford it now. Rose said that perhaps after Christmas I could get a new recumbent and she could have my current one. Then she would ride with me. No comment!

In other news, on the way home on my ride mentioned above, my chain fell off while changing gears. It was dark at that time and even though the street I was on had lights, it was still difficult to see. I put the chain back on and then got back on the road but when I tried shifting to a higher front gear, the shifter broke apart and I was stuck in the lowest gear. I had to finish the last three or four miles of my trip in that gear.

I ordered a new shifter, that I think is correct, and it should arrive tomorrow or Wednesday. Hopefully I will be able to figure out how to install it. In the mean time it looks like I will be driving to work.

My Health Conscious Roots

Today I consider my lifestyle to be in the top 20 percent of Americans when it comes to healthy living. When you consider the way Americans live, that is not a difficult accomplishment and I am working on improving. For now, I would like to reflect on how I got here.

Way back in the mid to late eighties, I took a class in college called Personal Wellness. In that class, the teacher casually mentioned the downside of sugar and instead, focused on the evils of fat. She made it seem like as long as our calories were from less than 30% fat, we were eating a healthy diet. Coke has no fat so it must be healthy. That was message I got, although I never thought Coke was healthy, I just thought it was better than a bacon cheeseburger.

I moved to Florida in 1988 and my son was born in 1989. By the time he was around four years old I noticed he was becoming overweight and I wanted to try to buy healthier food. At the time, my ex did the shopping and was buying tons of crap food like soda and honey buns so I decided to do the shopping myself and I bought what I thought was healthy food. I know now it was really just less unhealthy. It didn’t matter though because my ex put up a big stink about it and the crap food came back into the house.

In 1999 I married Rose, my current wife. She was a bit more health conscious and would usually make nice home cooked meals rather that eat something out of a package. The problem was, about eight years after I met her I had gained over 35 pounds.

One day in 2007, I was listening to a radio show in Tampa Bay where the host was skewing a guy named Kevin Trudeau who wrote a book called Natural Cures They Don’t Want You to Know About. He made it sound like the author was crazy nutcase that just escaped from the asylum. The fact that the host had no medical expertise made me think he was just a close-minded jerk. A few weeks later I saw the book and decided that I could read it with an open-mind, so I bought it.

I must say that it was an interesting and informative book that made a lot of sense but it was written in a somewhat arrogant style that put everything in black and white. This side is good, that side is bad and there is no in between. I decided to do research and found many natural health experts that agreed with much of what was in the book.

My research led me to another book by Raymond Frances called Never Be Sick Again. This was the best book on health I have ever read. The basic premise of the book is that all illnesses are caused by malfunctioning cells and cells malfunction for two reasons: lack of proper nutrition and toxins. So the book is about caring for your cells which in turn will lead to better health.

This made perfect because I had already concluded that a lifestyle similar to our early ancestors is how we were meant to live and everything in this book pointed in that direction. It also talked about all the toxins in our environment and how to avoid as many as possible.

From that point time on I was hooked on healthy living. My wife was interested too but not to the extent I was. This made it more of a challenge, and still does, but I still managed to drop from 222 pounds to 189 pounds in about a year or so. I stayed there until we moved to Myrtle Beach in 2009 when everything changed.

After the move I tried to continue my healthy eating habits but the weight started coming back. Even after moving back to Florida, I continued to gain weight. It didn’t come back as fast as I lost it, but after three years I was five pounds heavier than when I started my healthy eating habits. I should note that even though I gained the weight back, I was still much healthier than I was five years before. I had more energy and never got sick, except for what I would consider the beginning of a cold. My immune system always fought it off before it got bad.

The only thing that was different about my life these last three years was that the amount of exercise I was getting dropped to almost nothing. Before moving, I was walking everyday during my lunch time, but I did not take a lunch break at work in Myrtle Beach. I bought a bicycle to compensate but it is not a bike friendly area. As a matter of fact, there was absolutely no safe way to ride to work without adding too many miles to the trip.

Before I bore you with a long story, I just want to say that since buying my recumbent bike and riding the ten miles to work about three times a week, I have even more energy and the weight is slowly starting to come off again. I feel really good about my future and I plan to improve my eating habits even more.

My motivation to write this was because my weight this morning was 221, under the 222 that I was at before starting my new health habits in 2007 and six pounds less than when I bought my bicycle. I know six pound is not much but I also know the cooler, drier weather is coming so I will be riding almost every day. I will keep you posted on my progress.

My Motivator

I mentioned when I started this blog that one of the reasons for doing so was to motivate myself to keep riding and not let this bicycle go the way of the gym membership. I had that in mind when I last posted that I was going to ride to work yesterday, rain or shine.

Well, my wife was watching the weather yesterday morning and told me it was going to rain. The first thing I thought was, “Crap, I am going to have to drive to work.” Then I thought, “Crap, I can’t do that. I said I would ride, rain or shine.”

I checked the radar on the internet and determined that the line of showers was heading my way but if I left soon, I might beat them. So I hurried up, got ready and was out the door by 6:40, for a 9:00 a.m. job. It worked. I beat the weather and still had time to stop at the grocery store and pick up something for lunch.

It looks like today I will be dodging the weather on the way home.

Near End to Hiatus

It has been almost two weeks since my bicycle has seen the light of day. I was away for almost a week on cruise and came back sick with a sore throat and cough. I decided it was better to wait until the symptoms diminished before I over exerted myself.

Today I feel mostly better but I still have a cough that won’t go away. I thought about riding to work this morning but it is raining now so perhaps it will be better to wait until tomorrow.

I am a little anxious to start riding again. I actually miss being out on my bike and I am also worried about waiting too long and losing all the progress I have made. So rain or shine, tomorrow I will be riding again.