Saturday, November 12, 2011

Yes, this is exactly what you think it is

Feet, seen from the bottom side.
Thumbs up!
That's right. It appears as though I've been granted Daddy duties for a second go around. That means I'll likely be making some modifications to the Big Dummy, so as to better accommodate a younger passenger. Such modifications will occur a bit down the line of course, as the due date is in early March of next year.

We don't know the gender, and haven't nailed down any names yet. If you're the prognosticating sort, you can submit your baby-related guesses here, or take a look at guesses made by others.
An artist's concept illustrates some Big Dummy mods. A blonde big sister and a little pink piggy show how it would work.
Speaking of the numeral two, I happened to check out Denver B-cycle number 002 a few days ago for a snowy ride. Riding in snow and all types of weather is part of what makes riding in Denver so great.
Denver B-cycle number 002.
A B-station chilled with a blanket of morning snow.
I shuttled a basket full of snow across downtown Denver. The red bikes ride quite well on loose snow, packed snow and patchy ice.
An intrepid parent was out and about doing morning errands on this nicely equipped rig.

Monday, October 31, 2011

It can't be Halloween. Where's the snow?

A couple of creatures sporting big, toothy grins
It seems as though Mother Nature's timing was off by a few days this year. The final bits of snow from last week's storm had withered away by this afternoon. Historically, it seems more likely than not that the weather around here is foul and cold with the occasional blizzard, just in time for trick or treating. However, this year the weather couldn't have been finer.
Joan Jett loves rock and roll. And Smarties.
In our gluttonous cruise around the neighborhood, we collected far more candy than we need. In fact, it's far more than any mortal human needs. So, we're leaving the excess out for the candy fairy. The candy fairy, for those who may not be aware, brings gifts to good little girls and boys in exchange for candy on Halloween night. I'm grateful for the candy fairy for reducing the presence of sugar, an uncontrolled but potentially dangerous substance when in high concentration in the bloodstream of young humans.
Slimy pumpkin guts
Happy Halloween! Oh, and don't forget to brush.

Monday, October 24, 2011

183rd riding day for 2011

I don't keep track of many personal statistics regarding bike use, such as miles ridden and the like. It's just not that practical for me, as only one of my many bikes has a cycle computer. However, I was curious to examine my riding habits in some quantitative manner, so late last year I decided to record every day that I use a bike to make at least one trip that might have otherwise been made by car.

This past week I logged my 183rd day of riding a bike to displace car use during 2011. The number 183 is significant, because it passes the 50% threshold of the number of days in the year. So, regardless of how many more days I ride between now and the end of the year, I have already ridden a bike to replace a car trip for at least half the days of 2011.

Looking at the chart above, it's noticeable that riding days in January and February are fairly low. What can I say; it was cold. I will note that I did ride on several exceedingly cold days during that period. May was also lower than expected, during which I had a nasty case of bronchitis. July has a dip too, as I was hiking in the mountains for a week. I'll chalk up the lower numbers in September and October to work on my dissertation, during which I've rarely left my house. I expect that October will grow a bit during its final week. I'll likely have an update at the end of the year.

Seeing the chart made me think about the days that I didn't replace car trips with bike trips. Sure, some of those days I drove somewhere or for whatever reason did not have a bike available. However, maybe a third of those days I didn't go anywhere. Perhaps I'll devise more data categories for next year to capture some of these items.

In any case, it's been an interesting exercise, for me at least. If you are interested, you can log your own bicycling days by using my bicycling days counter template at Google Docs.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My new-fangled phone-thing has a camera

A nice fall evening ride.
I'll be the first to admit to being a bit of a human oddity. For one thing, I have all 32 of my teeth, including wisdom teeth, in place and functioning as intended. Perhaps more shocking, I avoided cell phone ownership until 2008.

I succumbed to a rudimentary model out of the necessity of being able to be contacted, and because I have no office phone. My cell phone was the simplest offered, but it seemed like even that modest model aspired to be something other than a phone. It was packed with stuff, like a calculator, games and other things I never bothered to explore. As a means of verbal communication it was adequate. Other functions were less so. I cringed if anyone ever sent me a text message, as it was an ordeal to reply with the numerical keypad. The phone technically had a camera, although the photos it took were low resolution, fuzzy and apparently impossible to extract from the device.

In recent months, my cell phone, at three years old and practically an antique, had decided to decline in function. The clarity of audio was not unlike that of C.B. radios I remember in the late 1970s. It dropped calls with wanton abandon. After much domestic prodding, I finally agreed to an upgrade to a slightly fancier model. After all, the upgrade was "free," never mind the two year commitment.
Box for new phone accompanied by old phone luxuriating on a statistics book. Photo taken by new phone, not pictured for obvious reasons.
My new phone-thing is not an iPhone. It's not an Android phone or a Blackberry or even a Windows 7 Phone, or whatever they call that thing. It is, however, much nicer than my old phone. The audio clarity is considerably better, and it has a slide out mini keyboard to contend with the odd text message that I receive. I'm sure it also has all sorts of software and features that I'll never figure out how to use. However, it does have a camera that not only functions adequately, but generates retrievable photo files. I'll never take a Pulitzer prize winning photo with it, but it does mean that I won't have to haul around my trusty 9 year-old Canon Elph camera for incidental photo opportunities as much any more.
A 1989 Specialized Rockhopper Comp with original Deore II components and non-original fat 2.4 tires stuffed between the stays.
I often spot bikes or other interesting things while out and sometimes take photos. The bike above was the first of such opportunistic captures with my new phone. I enjoy seeing bikes like this that are obviously regularly used and have many of their original parts, with some thoughtful additions. It doesn't hurt that this Rockhopper was made in the pinnacle year of non-suspended mountain bikes and Shimano's component manufacture in terms of quality, serviceability and value. Yeah, bike nerd to the core.

I've also found the new camera to be useful when I don't want to hunt down a nicer camera for a spur of the moment shot. Such an event occurred tonight when she read and appreciated a comic on her own for the first time. She's been fascinated by Calvin and Hobbes books for a couple of years and has spent long periods looking through them. However, this evening she giggled out loud at the strip below, after having read the dialogue. It was a great moment.
She not only read it, but she identified with the sentiment. It doesn't hurt that Calvin is a fellow six year-old similarly adorned with untamed hair.
Actively delaying bed time and getting away with it.
I'm still quite a Luddite when it comes to personal communication devices, but I'm warming to the new phone.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fun run

Ready to hustle!
Today was our school's annual fun run. It delivered as promised. She did great and turned in a solid performance. Her pace was certainly a bit quicker than when I run, which is not very often anymore.
At the starting line.
Enjoying an orange after the run.
She started out on her own, but I caught up to her so we could run together. We held hands across the finish line, sprinting to pass a boy and his dad. I was a little surprised and very impressed that she passed a number of kids along the way and kept her determination. I'll credit her competitive streak to her mother. The school did a great job running the event, and the turnout of parents and siblings was impressive.
One of the other dads was riding around this very nice vintage Redline BMX.
As usual, my ride was considerably larger.

Friday, September 30, 2011

I'm still here.

My view for a vast majority of the time during the past month.
In the waning hour of the month, I realized it's been exactly 30 days since I was last around this lonely little blog. I have good reasons for my delinquency. Nearly all of them have to do with me finishing my dissertation. I'll hopefully be able to emerge from my cocoon and be a real person once again in the near future.

However, I can't let this go without some bike content. So, voila! Behold my incongruous Diamond Back collection.
My "salmon" colored 1991 Diamond Back Master TG with its little brother...
... a 1995 Diamond Back Assault. This is as it was when I got it.
I picked up a mid '90s fully chromed Diamond Back Assault BMX bike over the summer, from an era I have since learned is referred to as "mid school" as opposed to "old school." The bike is ostensibly for visiting nieces and nephews to use. It had been enjoyed and ridden over the years, but was in reasonably good shape. In typical fashion, while making some adjustments I ended up stripping it down, cleaning and rebuilding it.

Three or so decades back, as a kid, I always wanted, but never had, a chrome BMX. The DB Assault is not quite as alluring as a mag-wheeled, nickel plated '77 Roger De Coster or a loop tailed '79 Diamond Back Pro were for me in my halcyon days, but it'll do.

Perhaps after growing a few more inches, a little blonde girl that I know might give the bike a taste of some dirt. Until then, I have found that I am surprisingly not too tall to ride it. Who knows, I may see about getting to a pump track one of these days. Probably during my plentiful spare time.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

So these two green bikes meet at a bar...

I always liked the lush green of the 1988 Diamond Back Ascent EX, but never had one. A chance encounter with a nice survivor let me compare the hue with my trusty old Cross-Check.
The first line is all I've got. I'll leave the punch line up to you.

Even the most occasional visitor will notice that I've been a bit lacking as far as updates here as of recent. I assure you that I have a good reason. I've been pulling some long hours working on a big project. Apparently there was some sort of big bike racing thing in town over the weekend. Sounded cool. Didn't see it. Maybe next time.

Instead, I've spent about 20 out of every 24 hours in my basement office for the past few weeks. Worry not; I've been doing bike stuff, just not the kind of bike stuff that is usually featured here. It's a lot less Big Dummy oriented, instead more along the lines of p-value this and multicollinearity that. I'm in the zany netherworld of quantitative statistical analysis. I exist mostly in a cocoon of convenience food and clutter. My companions as of late are guys like him or him or him, and sometimes them or them.

If you guessed that I'm dissertating, you're right. I hope to be able to say more about it sometime soon. Until then, it's time for bed.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Encounter during an evening grocery run

Lost in contemplation of the snacky goodness we just purchased.
This evening we made a quick trip to the grocery store for a few items, which is not so consequential in itself. What was unusual about the trip was something that we experienced on the way home.
We were at a traffic light on a small street waiting to cross a large street. There was a large SUV in the left turn lane on the large street, positioned to turn onto the small street toward the side opposite of where we were. Then I noticed that although the driver had a green light and that the road was clear for the SUV to turn, it didn't, but rather stayed immobile in the turn lane.

After several seconds, the passenger side window rolled down and a woman yelled something at me. My years of riding in traffic has conditioned me to the occasional, often unintelligible message yelled in my general direction from a motor vehicle, which I mostly ignore or dismiss.

Tonight was a bit different. Following a couple of repetitions, I realized that the message was in the form of a question: "Who made your bike?"

I shouted back, "Surly. Surly Big Dummy." The passenger repeated "Surly" to the driver and yelled "Thanks" to me. With the exchange complete, off motored the SUV.

Perhaps the occupants went home to order their very own Big Dummy. Perhaps they left with more nefarious motives. Who knows. Only later did I realize the unfortunate positioning of the model name of the bike in my response, which may have been received as a personal epithet following the name of the manufacturer. If you were in a gold Suburban and think a guy on an oddly long bike called you a "Big Dummy," I assure you that's not the case.

This encounter was a bit puzzling for me, although in retrospect it probably shouldn't have been. Quite different from my personality preferences, the Big Dummy wants to get noticed. During the nearly three years that I've been riding this big distinctive bike around suburban Denver, I can recall only a handful of trips during which no one has eagerly asked me about it. Even just a few minutes earlier when leaving the grocery store, I had talked with a bicyclist who wanted to check out the Dummy and the load it was carrying. It stands to reason that some people who happen to be in cars may be just as curious.

This bike induces a stream of questions from nearly anyone within sight of it, and has forced me to become a bit more of an extravert by way of explanation. In fact, the people who have asked and received information from me about the Big Dummy, sometimes in depth and at length, easily number in the hundreds over the past few years.

I don't know what effect these sort of encounters have had on Big Dummy sales. However, in my mind's eye, the people in the Suburban are presently making plans to upgrade from a large capacity GM machine to a large capacity Surly machine. To them I say you've made a great decision and I look forward to meeting you on the trail to hear of the fun you will have had.

If anyone from Surly ever reads this, you're welcome. My commission can be set straight by hooking a Daddy up with an "I'm with Big Dummy" t-shirt, size large. Maybe one in size extra small too, for good measure.
We love you, you Big Dummy.

First day of school and she's already learning

Eager to learn and ready to ride.
This is the second year in a row that our girl has ridden on the first day of school, something that I hope will continue all the way through her career. Last year, I carried her on the Big Dummy until we crossed the big street, but this year she rode on her own bike the whole way, with parents by her side of course. I could tell that all the dirt riding we've done this summer has made her strong, because she had no trouble motoring up a long hill along the way.

The weather was perfect and we had plenty of time to spare in getting to school on time. It's hard to believe that classes are back in session. This means that summer is unofficially over. However, no tears were shed, because she was more than happy to see her friends and meet her new teacher.
The trail was clear and perfect in the morning.
She picked out a nice shady spot to park, while striking a sassy pose.
After school, I picked her up and we rode home. I had to select a different bike for the task, as the front tire on the Big Dummy went flat sometime after I dropped her off in the morning, and I didn't notice it until I needed to leave. It's a good thing that I have an extra bike or two around to pick up the slack.
The color coordinated purple clothes, backpack and bike obviously play into her steely gaze of confidence.
After a snack and a rest, we decided to change the tire. The learning for the day was not yet finished, as she gained some hands on experience with changing a flat, including patching a tube with the patch kit that she won in the bike rodeo yesterday. She dove right into the task, and before long the Dummy was again ready to roll.
Tarik of the Moscaline blog calls the little silver item a 'dork nut.' As far as I know, there is no better name for it.
Prepping a brand new tube. We patched the old one to become a spare, as it already had a handful of patches on it.
Seating the bead like a pro. Daddy is proud.
How many mechanics do you know who are cool enough to sport a prancing unicorn on their shirt?
I thought so.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Viva Streets: a Denver ciclovia

The girl knows what she likes, and she likes car-free streets.
Ciclovia means bike path in Spanish. However, another meaning of ciclovia is an event that occurs due to the temporary closure of a street to motorized traffic, often between two parks, so that people can explore and celebrate their city a car-free manner. This definition of ciclovia manifested in Bogota, Colombia several years ago, and has spread to numerous cities around the world ever since. Today, Denver held its first ciclovia called "Viva Streets" along 23rd Avenue between City Park and Stapleton.
A couple of miles worth of people enjoying where they live under their own power.
Exploring new neighborhoods and public art is always fun.
It was terrific to see so many people out enjoying the Park Hill neighborhood. However, the festivities weren't limited to humans, as we saw dogs, cats, chickens and even a parrot out and about. A stretch of a couple of miles of 23rd Avenue was closed to cars, encompassing many restaurants and commercial districts, several food trucks, a few parks and impromptu stops of all types.
Dexter and 23rd was a very popular source for food, drink and people watching.
LiveWell Colorado and BikeDenver teamed up to bring the event to the city, and The Park Hill Bike Depot played a prominent role as neighborhood host. Each of these three organizations deserves all the accolades and support that you can muster.
The queen of the bike rodeo receives instructions.
Bikes of all shapes and sizes were constant fun to look at, especially for someone like me.
One of the few vehicles larger than the Big Dummy allowed on the street during Viva Streets.
We were fortunate enough to see many of our friends along the way. I met M of MandG, proprietors of the Biking and Baking blog, which covers one of the best combinations of two great things. We also met up with our friend and Park Hill denizen Tracy, aka Fixed Gal, of I Like Bikes fame. Tracy let my daughter try out her snazzy new Robin's Egg Blue  Surly Cross-Check for size. Unfortunately, it'll be a while before she's able to fit a Surly of any type, except for the back seat of the Big Dummy.
Testing out Tracy's fancy blue Cross-Check. Just a few more inches. Sure looks fast though.
The co-pilot's seat of the Big Dummy fits just right.
We hung out with Tracy on a playground, trying out some of the equipment, then she accompanied us for a second run through the bike rodeo at her request. Tracy is quicker than I am, and had coverage of the bike rodeo performance up before I did. Cool photos, Tracy!
The starting lineup for the snail race.
At the end of our Viva Streets experience, we stopped by the Denver B-cycle booth to see some more friends and to check out a couple of B-cycles of unfamiliar colors. We also enjoyed a little time with Ben and his canine pal Henry, a remarkably patient and mellow little dog.
Red, blue and gray, each from a different city. Personally, I'd also like to see a nice grassy green. Maybe a mustard yellow too.
Ben and Henry check out the Big Dummy.
We made a quick stop at the People for Bikes booth and she won a water bottle and some stickers. You should sign the people for bikes pledge if you haven't already.

Finally, we stopped off at the fountain at the southwest corner of City Park to stick our hot feet in some cool water, before heading for home.
A little slimy on the bottom, but nice and cool.
Celebratory dance at the fountain.
I'm not in a position to know, but if I had to guess, I'd say Denver's first ciclovia was a huge success. Hopefully this means there will be more like it in the future. Congratulations and thanks to all the organizations and volunteers who worked so hard to make it happen.