Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The day in pictures: Denver bikes to work

Mayor Michael Hancock (on red Denver B-cycle) at the start of the morning ride.

Denver Police Officers escorting the group along the Platte River Trail.

People on bikes crossing the Platte River at Confluence Park.

Riding along the Cherry Creek Trail toward central downtown.

Morning traffic on the Cherry Creek Trail near the CU Denver Building

Beaming a smile, she was two miles into her first bike ride in ten years. 

Bike lane traffic near the intersection of 14th and California Streets.

The Mayor's group of riders approaching the Webb Building on 14th Street.

Mayor Hancock addresses the crowd at Civic Center Park, as some of the most active women in the local bicycling community look on.

(L-R) Piep van Heuven of BikeDenver, Mayor Hancock, Darryl West of the Major Taylor Cycling Club of Denver.

Emily gets acquainted with Pugsley.

Nick gets a fat tire fix.

Denver City Council President Chris Nevitt suddenly envisions a city populated with fatbikes.

An enormous 24" Surly Ogre, custom powder coated in a stunning purple hue. A nice bike.

The Bike From Work Bash featured great beer and entertainment.

A budding fixie hipster communes with the exalted grand yogi of fixie hipsters.

The day ends with low-angle sun and my two most faithful riding companions.

To close out bike to work day is a shot of the most perfect kind of car: one that is used sparingly for special occasions only. This gullwing 1959 Chevrolet Impala 4-door hardtop is a rolling piece of space-age art.

Denver Bike to Work Day 2012

Basket of a Denver B-cycle festooned for the day.
Denver and the surrounding region has its Bike to Work Day about a month later than National Bike to Work Day, and today was it. I think the later date locally as compared to everywhere else has to do with a greater likelihood of good weather in June than in May. However, this year May might have been a better choice as we've had a terrible and prolonged heat wave for many days, with no end in sight. The temperature has tied the maximum ever recorded in Denver of 105 F degrees twice in the past few days. Coupled with exceedingly low humidity, these conditions have contributed to the multiple fires currently burning in the area.
Mayor Hancock on the right, prepping for the ride.
The best time of day to ride in such heat is in the morning or the evening, and this morning did not disappoint. I left the house at 6:35 equipped with plenty of water and enjoyed a nice ride. A bit later, as a member of the Denver Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Committee, I was invited to ride with Mayor Hancock, members of City Council and city staff into downtown. Say what you will about the merits of singling out one day a year for a somewhat larger than normal subset of the population to ride to work, but it's a fun atmosphere riding among a lot of bicyclists going in all directions. It kind of provides the feeling of what it must be like to commute in a city like Copenhagen.

As bike to work day is pretty much every day for me, I decided to make the official Bike to Work Day a little different. Last year I rode my skinniest-tired bike, so this year I rode my Pugsley. As has been proven on other outings, the fat tires dependably generated a lot of interest. I had quite a few test riders, from Bicycle Police Officers to City Council Members to the City's Bicycle Coordinator. The universal response was a big smile sometimes accompanied by giggling.
Steve Sander, Director of Strategic Marketing for Denver, with a post-Pugsley grin.
I'll have more photos later, once I'm able to retrieve them from my camera. In all, the morning ride went very well. Next up will be the Bike From Work Party and the ride home.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rubber cement

The useful, yet offending substance, accompanied by sundry tools of the trade.
Patching tubes is a tradition as old as the pneumatic tires first developed for bicycle application, well over a century ago. Keeping and repairing a stock of tubes can ensure a revolving supply, while saving money and keeping usable items out of landfills. I've got a big pile of tubes of various sizes, some of which have been in service for a decade or more, and some sporting nearly as many patches as years. I've even got one or two with a patch on a patch. 

Over the past weekend, I decided that the pile of need-to-be-patched tubes was large enough for a marathon patching session, so I rounded up my materials. However, the problem with patch kits is that even though they often are equipped with a generous supply of patches, they are generally sold with only tiny tubes of rubber cement, also known as contact cement. In my experience, I've found that unless the little tube of rubber cement is used nearly immediately after it is initially opened, it'll be dried up and useless the next time it's needed. Again and again I buy a patch kit, install a patch or two and inevitably the rubber cement dries up in the intervening time. Therefore, I've got numerous patch kits with plenty of patches but no usable rubber cement.
Dry as a bone.
No problem, I thought. I'll just hit the local grocery store and buy a big bottle of rubber cement, and have plenty to spare.

Well, the first store didn't have any rubber cement among the paltry office supply items. Nor did others. No problem, I'll go to a big box store nearby. Nope. They didn't have any either. The teenage clerk I asked hadn't even heard of rubber cement.

"Didn't this stuff used to be everywhere?" I thought to myself. When I was a kid I could have sworn rubber cement was on every back-to-school shopping list and in every junk drawer. I don't recall specifically what I used it for in grade school, but I was sure it had been a nearly ubiquitous commodity.

If my memory is indeed accurate, then present circumstances no longer share similarities with the past. I ended up having to make a trip to a big hardware store to find rubber cement, which I eventually located in the adhesives isle. "Great, got it," I thought.

Only when I was going through the self checkout stand, the only viable option on a busy Saturday afternoon, did I make another discovery. As soon as I scanned the jar, the purchasing process stopped cold. The screen started flashing a warning and an attendant was automatically summoned. All I could do was stand there, incredulous to the absurdity of the situation. I had gone to a lot of trouble to procure $3 worth of sticky goo in order to engage in arcane rubber wizardry, only to be thwarted in the final act. 

The clerk that arrived didn't quite know what the problem was or what to do. He had to scan his ID badge and navigate through several administrative screens before the scanner could be coaxed into a more compliant state. By then, the people in line behind me were wondering what I was attempting to buy that was holding them up and/or endangering us all. The clerk returned a verdict that the rubber cement was a regulated item, in essence a controlled substance, not to be sold to anyone under 18. Glue sniffing or some such thing, he speculated as the apparent reason.

With my ID checked, in a minute or two I was on my way. But I was left wondering how prior generations existed with easy and cheap access to flush supplies of rubber cement. Maybe I have involuntarily repressed memories of those dark times. Maybe I was just lucky to have survived. In any case, I will soon have a pile of tubes with renewed utility; their holes dutifully plugged.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Big Dummy tennis chauffeur

Road train: four wheels and four paws chugging along.
Last evening we loaded up the Dummy with the objective of playing a little tennis in the perfectly calm air. For the ride to the court, I was accompanied by all my girls, both human and canine. Once there, Mommy and the big girl hit the ball to each other while I hung out with the little girl and Scout.
Lil Sis is really starting to interact and show a lot of expression. Gotta love the shirt with monkeys on a bike.
Scout was a bit curious as to why two humans would play with a ball without either chewing on it.
Prime court-side seating.
Following tennis, we rode home, where I inevitably tinkered with the Pugsley for a while. I dressed it up in some bikepacking gear, to see how it all fit. So far I have a Revelate/Surly frame bag, a pair of Salsa Anything cages, and an old Jandd seat pack that I got in the late '80s. I packed a test load into the frame bag, including my Eno camping hammock and some other random items. Riding it around the back yard, I was pleased with how the loaded frame bag didn't intrude into my pedaling space.

I'll have to do some more testing and figure out a few more equipment carrying solutions, but there is definitely some bikepacking in the Pugsley's future. I have no specifics or destinations yet planned, and I probably don't have time to put together an epic trip, but I'll figure out a way to make use of my two-wheeled RV.
The Pugsley in partial bikepacking livery. Next up will be figuring out more carrying capacity.
Salsa Anything cages on the front of the Pugsley. Anything cages are an interesting concept to carry light, somewhat bulky items, though I'm not yet certain what I'll carry in them.
An important discovery is that the length of baby feet is shorter than the width of a fatbike tire.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Platte River Trail shakedown cruise on the Pugsley

2012 Surly Necromancer Pugsley, as clean as it will ever be.
Yesterday, I took an extended lunch and rode North from my office along the Platte River Trail up into Adams County. Round trip, the distance was a little over 20 miles; my first long ride on the Pugsley. It was incidentally also the first ride on the Pug out in the general populace, which was somewhat revealing about just how non-normal fatbikes are perceived to be.

After riding a Big Dummy for years, often loaded with things not generally thought of as being transportable by bike, I'm accustomed to receiving dumbfounded stares while out and about. However, the Pugsley drew even more attention. I could not count the number of times I heard observers mention to each other or to me something along the lines of, "look at those tires," or, "those tires are huge." I also got a lot of "cool bike" comments from both bicyclists and non-bicyclists alike, both genders, and from people ranging in age from approximately 6 to 80. I had several people, from construction workers to former bike shop owners stop me to ask about the Pugsley. One obviously inebriated fellow even asked me about how I got here from the future. For the duration of the ride, I got to feel what it might be like as the belle of the ball.
The requisite photo of fat tire tracks in the sand, Endomorph over Larry.
Although the Platte River Trail is paved for much of its length, there are numerous parallel trails in the dirt and sandbars lining the Platte River. I made the most of these non-paved surfaces whenever possible. The Pugsley is a bike that craves the dirt. It encourages its rider to seek out uneven surfaces and spots with mucky or soft strata. This is probably not a revelation to anyone who has much experience on a fatbike, but it was easier to ride through loose sand than to attempt to walk over it. As long as I didn't make any sharp turns, the Pug rolled over even the most unstable of surfaces.
A cormorant cooling itself near the water in the 90F degree heat.
The best the zoom on my little camera could do to show the black-crowned night heron at the water's edge.
The Platte River Trail is a great place to escape the cityscape, quickly and easily from many locations in downtown Denver. A lot of people were taking advantage of the cooling effects of the water and trees. Many species of birds and small animals were also present along the river.
With two big gyroscopes spinning, it's easy to ride no-hands, even off road.
The Pugsley, and fatbikes in general, are usually framed as being special purpose bikes for snow or sand. However, that point of view seriously undermines the capabilities of these bikes. Riding on doubletrack and gravel roads, even along coarse gravel railroad beds is terrific fun on a fatbike. The fat tires at low pressure remove or reduce a lot of the jarring effects of rough surfaces without the somewhat dead feeling that would be evident with a full suspension mountain bike in the same places. The float of the fat tires is the perfect amount of suspension to make riding fun without impairing the sense of feedback to the rider from the trail. Overall, the Pugsley is great fun. Riding it makes me feel like a kid again.
Construction along the Platte River Trail under I-76. It might be problematic during the Denver Century Ride this weekend.
My Pugsley on a bridge near the furthest extent of my ride, somewhere in Welby, CO.
In the evening, I got together with some friends for a gathering of the Surly Owners Society (S.O.S.) at a local brewery. Tracy showed off her Trucker with fancy shellacked cork grips on a newly installed Nitto Albatross bar, and Sandy had skinny Continentals on his roadied-up Cross-Check. While the number of attendees do not yet rival the popular Denver Cruisers rides, we had some good beer and some good fun.
Sandy left speechless after his first ride on a Pugsley. Start saving, Sandy!
Tracy with a smile as big as the Pugsley's tires.
Surly family portrait in front of Biker Jim's house of gourmet dogs: L-R 54 cm Long Haul Trucker in green, 58 cm Cross-Check in black, and 20 inch Necromancer Pugsley.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"It's like riding on a lion"

The title of this post is a quote from Rosa, 4, on her thoughts about riding on the Big Dummy for the first time.
A couple of the cousins/nieces were in town for a while, so we made sure to do a bit of riding. Hazel and Rosa were up from Albuquerque to see Uncle Jake off to a two-year tour of duty in the Peace Corps. Good luck in Micronesia, Jake!

A couple of six year-olds spinning and grinning.
Uncle Chris on the left and Uncle Jake on the right.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Let me introduce you to my corpulent friend

The fatbike with the schizophrenic name: a 2012 Surly Necromancer or Neck Romancer or Black Ops Pugsley.
Welcome to Fatville. Population: me. Lest anyone think that my new position as an Assistant Professor means that I am somehow above embracing strange bikes with odd names, I have brought a fatbike with a goofy moniker into the household.

This is perhaps one of the longest contemplations of a purchase I've ever made. I've been weighing acquisition of a fatbike since I first saw a custom Iditabike at the now defunct Denver Mountain Bike Specialists in about 1989. A custom bike of that sort was out of the question, but my fatbike interest was rekindled when I first saw an original purple Pugsley about the time my oldest daughter was born, nearly seven years ago. Since then, I haven't been able to get schemes involving fat rubber off my mind. This smoldering ember grew in intensity, no doubt fostered by such possibly unsavory online characters as this guy, and this guy, and this guy, and this gal, and foolhardy adventures that will undoubtedly spawn legends in future generations, such as this and this.
The frame is a 20 inch, in case you're wondering.
The Surly Larry 3.8 tire mounted on 82mm Surly Rolling Darryl rims is about as wide as my hand.
After all these years, there was no more containing it. The dam has broken and I now have a fatbike of my own. It's still quite new and the reality is sinking in, but preliminary plans for adventures are starting to gel. In the mean time, much tinkering and fiddling await me...
The Pug came equipped with new, oldfangled top mount thumb shifters, reminiscent of my many bikes with circa 1989 equivalents. I'm glad to see a new model of this great design back in the public eye, as there is no better, more simple way to shift.
A Larry 3.8 with plenty of room to spare in the Moonlander fork.
A Mister Whirly Offset Double (MWOD) crankset allows for some mighty fat rubber. Crank Brothers 50/50 pedals are nice and big platforms.
The unholy Rolling Darryl on the rear end is laced using only the drive side holes.
Scout knows what this bike is capable of doing. She's already daydreaming about how she'll run alongside it, over the mountains and far away.