Tag Archives: Cycling

My Fun Ride

I should have written this post last Friday but my free time has been very limited lately. One of the reasons for that is that I turned 50 on Tuesday, but I will talk about than soon.

I was lucky enough to not only get the Fourth of July off from work, but also the fifth. My wife had to work so I decided to take the bike out for a fun ride. I left pretty early, about 7:30 or so. My plan was to ride a little past Downtown Dunedin to Edgewater Park, which is a linear park along the intercostal Waterway. I often pass by in the car and I never think to bring my camera along, which is too bad, because on many mornings the water is like glass and there are some beautiful pictures to be had. This time I put my camera in my seat pack and headed down the Pinellas Trail. The weather was perfect and I was able to choose my destination for the first time in months.

Pinellas Trail, Dunedin Florida

Not far from home on the Pinellas Trail

Pinellas Trail, Dunedin Florida

A view from the Pinellas Trail

Pinellas Trail, Dunedin Florida

Another view from the Pinellas Trail

When we moved to Dunedin in June, it was the third time I moved back to the city after moving away for one reason or another. Something keeps pulling me back and riding down the trail on a lazy Friday morning it is easy to see what it is. It seems peaceful here with great views along the water and a town with a bit of “culture” that caters to cyclists, probably since the trail runs through the middle of downtown.

Dunedin Marina

Dunedin Marina

Edgewater Linier Park in Dunedin

Edgewater Linier Park in Dunedin

Edgewater Linier Park in Dunedin

View from Edgewater Park in Dunedin

Old pier pilings

Old pier pilings

20130705_Dunedin - Edgew_2737I rode through the downtown area, past the marina and to the point that I wanted to photograph. Unfortunately the water was not as smooth as I had hoped for but I was still able to take a few good pictures before my hunger pains intervened. I had not eaten anything that morning so I thought I would stop at The Boxcar before heading home.

The Boxcar Cafe – photo from yelp.com

The Boxcar is a little café and store inside an actual boxcar on the trail in Downtown Dunedin. The Pinellas Trail was created from abandoned railroad tracks so it seems fitting that it is located where it is. I thought I could stop for a while and get a bagel and a cup of coffee. It has been a while since I have been there but I was not expecting to see it closed. There was a sign on the window about some type of organic business coming soon but I don’t remember exactly what it said. I just remember being hungry and having no good option. I didn’t want to go to a restaurant so I just headed home.

View of Downtown Dunedin from the Pinellas Trail

View of Downtown Dunedin from the Pinellas Trail. The Boxcar is just past the stop sign.

I rode about eight miles that morning, less than one way to work, but I loved the fact that I had nowhere that I had to be and I could just ride for the fun of riding. Next time I will eat first so I won’t feel the need to go home as quickly.

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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?

Benefits Of Having Only One Car

Cyclist putting car in trashI don’t know what sparked the idea of getting rid of one of our cars but I do know I was thinking about it around 2006 or so. I thought if I could ride my bike to work we wouldn’t need a second car and we could save money on gas, insurance and maintenance. At the time I was working seven or eight miles from home, too far to ride I thought. Actually, I knew it wasn’t too far but I also knew I was out of shape and I would have to work up to it.

The real problem was that most of the trip was along U.S. 19, the worst road in Florida, perhaps the universe. I put those thoughts out of my mind for a while and the next year we bought a condo and moved ten miles away, in the opposite direction from work. Eventually the thought of commuting by bicycle crept back into my mind and I started looking for a job closer to home. I never found one that would pay what I needed to make but in 2009 my wife’s company offered her a promotion which also came with a transfer to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

We didn’t want to leave Florida so she turned it down but when the manager they hired didn’t work out we finally agreed to move. Rose was going to be managing a 180 unit apartment complex and a free apartment was part of the deal. That meant we would be living on the property where she worked and thus would only need one car. I saw this as my opportunity to downsize and I gave my truck to Rose’s son. We then packed up the moving truck and towed our other car behind.

Once in Myrtle Beach, I eventually found a job about six or seven miles away. The first half of my plan was complete. Now I just needed to find a good route to work on my bike. There was none. That area is very unfriendly to cyclists and from where I was, I had to use Highway 501 to cross the Intercoastal Waterway and since part of the road was limited access, I didn’t dare try riding my bike on it. It didn’t matter, I was able to use our one car to get to work, and sixteen months later, my wife was promoted again and transferred back to Florida.

This time we did not live on the property but instead rented a condo in Dunedin, about seven miles from her work. Again, one car still suited our needs because I found a job four miles away and was able to ride my bike, which is what I wanted to do from the start.

Eventually, because my hours were cut, I started working in Tampa, about seventeen miles away. I was back to driving again but fortunately Rose’s work was on the way so I would drop her off and continue to work. After a few months of that, we moved to where she works and my trip was cut to nine miles (ten by bike). I wanted to ride to work again but It was farther than I was used to and I was worried about my back. My solution was buy a recumbent bike and ride to work without the concern of back pain.

You know the rest of the story as far as the bike is concerned but what I don’t mention is the occasional car problems and conflicts that arise. For example, last week we had an issue with the car on Thursday evening. My wife used that time to complain that we need two cars but on Friday morning I dropped it off at the repair shop across the street from our home and then rode to work. Problem solved.

Today Rose took the day off from work and needs the car. No problem, I can ride to work. But she wants me home early so we can do something together. That’s a problem so she will have to drive me to work and pick me up, but that is a problem of convenience, not necessity, and it is hardly worth the added cost of an extra vehicle.

So having one vehicle is not a good solution for everyone, and it can have it’s drawbacks, here is what I have found to be beneficial:

  • You pay less on car insurance. We save even more because Rose is now the primary driver and women have a lower rate (unlike at the hair salon).
  • Less maintenance cost. This can be significant, especially in older cars. Plus, you have one less car to clean.
  • Less vehicle taxes and tag fees. In South Carolina, I had to pay property tax on my car.
  • Save on gas. This mostly applies if you use a bike as alternative transportation.
  • Incentive to exercise. There are some days when I don’t feel like riding to work but Rose needs the car for something so I take my bike. Later I am glad I did.
  • One less car payment. I actually forgot to add the most obvious benefit and had to come back and put it in.

I don’t want to tell people they should only have one car, everyone’s circumstance is different, but if someone is thinking about it, I hope my story helps. Please let me know what you think.

Familiar Strangers

After two weeks on the sidelines I am finally able to ride again. It not only feels good to get exercise and be outside again, I also like seeing some of the people along the way that I have passed countless times.

There is a recumbent rider, possibly even older than me, who has a route almost exactly the same as mine but in the opposite direction. There is also the woman who works as a crossing guard near an elementary school that always says “hi” when I pass. At the other end of the school zone is a man who waves to everyone that goes by.

Then there are the people on the trail. One guy is overweight but working hard to slim down. When I pass he is walking while lifting hand weights. He always says hi to me, so do the two older women that are out for their morning walk. Then there is the women who is riding her bike with a mat rolled up on the front of it. I assume she is going to an exersize class. She never fails to say hi. There are several others too, but I don’t want to write a list.

Most people I see in the morning but there is a regular in the afternoon. He is an older man than walks very fast with a golf club in his had. He holds the club out and rotates it while he walks. He is the only person that avoids eye contact, but some people are just introverted, even in old age, and I certainly don’t think less of him for it.

It occurred to me that I almost feel a friendship toward these people even though I have never stopped and talked to any of them. It is just nice to hear that warm hello several times a day.

The other thing I noticed is that people are such creatures of habit. Many of the people on the trail, I assume, are walking for exercise. They walk the same trail, in the same direction, everyday. I don’t know what is normal but that would bore me to tears. I would want to mix it up and go one way one day and another the next.

It is true that I ride my bike the same way everyday, and I have tried to change it up a bit, but any other way to work is just not as safe. I suppose if I could find a safe second route, and then alternate between the two, I would double the friends that I don’t know.

Is it Bad to Ride While Sick?

In my last post, I was disappointed that I was unable to ride my bike for a full week. I finally got the parts I needed and repaired the problems and was ready to ride to work on Tuesday, almost two weeks ago. I woke up that morning with a bit of a sore throat and thought, “Great, any heavy breathing I do will make this worse.”

I got up, made coffee, took care of the cats and did my other morning chores and by the time I needed to leave, I felt ninety percent better. That is usually what happens when I start to get sick, it goes away before it gets bad. As a matter of fact, I can’t remember being sick in well over ten years.

It was a chilly morning so I dressed as warm as I could and headed to work. When I got there, I didn’t feel bad but I could tell I was not quite well either. The next morning the sore throat was back and I had developed a cough, congestion and sneezing to go with it. I was finally sick after all these years.  I don’t know if the bike ride helped push me over the edge but I think it is likely to be the case.

I drove the next day and seemed better as the day went on but the next morning I was worse again. I think lying down was bad for me but it just happens to be how I sleep.

That Thursday Rose and I took a two-day trip to the east coast of Florida, New Smyrna Beach, to celebrate her dad’s 80th birthday. I saw the pattern develop that I was sick in the morning and mostly better in the afternoon. That pattern continued all last week, with the worst day being Monday.

By Wednesday I was sick of driving and thought about getting back on the bike. My only fear was that doing so could cause this cold to last even longer. I don’t know it that would have happened. For all I know, the exercise might have done me some good. In the end I chose not to chance it and drove to work the rest of the week.

I now feel the cold breaking up and I am getting better. I am still coughing but if it continues to get better, or at least gets no worse, I should finally get back on two wheels tomorrow. Good thing too because I am one of the few people who puts on weight while sick.

 

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.

It it Really Safer to Wear a Bike Helmet?

I read an article recently that said one of the arguments against wearing a helmet was that drivers are less cautious around cyclists who wear them. This reminded me of a Freakanomics podcast I once listened to where Steven D. Levit and Stephen J. Dubner argue that modern football helmets can be more dangerous, in some ways than the old leather helmets because (and I am going by memory here) the players will lead with their head in tackles thinking they are safe. They also argue that people wearing seat belts will drive more aggressively for the same reason.

This makes sense and I don’t dispute it but I also don’t think it applies to bicycle helmets. When I am riding my bike, I don’t take risks because I am wearing a helmet. Lets be honest, a helmet won’t make a bit of difference if a truck runs over you. But the real argument is weather drivers will take more risks around. I find that hard to believe. Drivers are basically good people and they don’t want to hit you weather you are wearing a helmet or not.

My real concern with drivers is that they don’t pay attention. That is why you, as a cyclist, must pay double the attention. This alone is worth more than a hundred helmets. I mentioned in my last post that I had four close calls on my way to work. The worst was when the Orkin Man ran me off the road while turning left onto the street I was riding on. None of those four people ever saw me. Monday morning, on the same street and in almost the same spot, a box truck turned left and ran me off the road. This time, even though the sun was up, I had my flashing headlamp on and he still didn’t see me.

The point is, none of these people were driving like idiots because I was wearing a helmet. They were driving like idiots because…well…that is how they drive, and while a helmet won’t save me from a major collision, it may be just enough when I are forced off the road and hit the ground hard.

With that in mind, I would say wear your helmet but remember that is secondary to caution and good riding skills.