Wednesday, June 26, 2013

183 days and counting: Bike to Work Day

A little ride with Scout following the Bike to Work Day ride home.
Those of you who live outside the Denver area know that national Bike to Work Day occurred last month. However, for some reason the City of Denver traditionally conducts its Bike to Work Day in June, ostensibly because the weather is better in June than in May. Whatever the reason, today was Bike to Work Day in Denver. As is usually the case on this special day, there were a lot more people on bikes on the streets and trails around here. Curiously, bike to work day is one of the few days that many of the bike-y people I know are somewhat less likely to ride to work, mostly because many are working at bike-related events and may be required to drive vans or other motorized vehicles to haul tables and supplies. I, on the other hand, did no such thing. I rode my bike and talked with lots of bike-y people as they worked.
Activity at Civic Center Park just after Mayor Hancock spoke.  
Many snacks, stickers and other free goodies were to be had.
Coincidentally, today marked 183 consecutive days of me riding a bike. That means that I've officially hit half a year in my current streak that began late last year with the TSBC challenge. Today, like every day during the past six months, I rode in part for transportation, in part for convenience, and in part for fun. Early in the morning I was out the door with my single-speed Bean Green Surly Cross-Check, that I recently equipped with a new-to-me 16-tooth Surly cog to replace a 20-tooth antecedent. The new 16 seems to be well matched to work with the CC's 34-tooth Surly chainring. This gear combo returns a nice gain ratio to facilitate regular around-the-town riding.

Later, I went out with two of my girls; the babbling one and the fuzzy one. Along the trail we made a couple of discoveries. First, we found that people who use chainsaws can exhibit a sense of humor:
Happy stump.
Second, we made a trailside find of the canned liquid beverage variety:
These three survivors were rescued.
While making our way along a well-traveled trail, I spotted a tall Stella Artois can in the weeds along the side of the trail. I thought that the can looked like a good candidate for a new stove design featured on Vik's blog, which, as it turns out, was retired today. I picked it up, and to my surprise it was full and apparently untampered. A little farther along, I discovered another can, then another, and another. The cans looked as if they may have been either accidentally dropped or hastily ditched, as they had a few impact dents and scratches and one had been punctured. Considering the volume of traffic on the trail, it's unlikely they could have been there for too long. In any case, I'm chalking the three survivors up as a decent trailside find and will be enjoying them at some point in the future, once they have been properly chilled. Intact trailside found beer is free beer, and free beer is a cornerstone of our culture, after all. Not a bad conclusion to the day.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Summer Solstice

A couple of days ago we took advantage of the longest day of the year to ride to the park in the late evening. Inevitably, a little dog piling ensued in the freshly cut grass. It would be difficult to not enjoy a place and time like this. Photos by Julie, aka Little 29er Mommy.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Bike camping prep

It's a big fat Pug: at 58.5 lbs loaded, minus food, some water, and a few odds and ends. 
I've been gearing up to do some bikepacking since sometime last year. My philosophy has been to do it on the cheap when feasible, as I don't have the time or resources to commit myself to a load of camping of any sort. By way of checking out what other people use for equipment and compiling a spreadsheet tailored to my own needs, I've been able to ascertain what I have, what I need, and what I can do without. Initially the big gaps were lightweight versions of a tent, a sleeping bag, and a sleeping mat. That's of course apart from the means to carry all my junk.

Selling a few bikes recently and putting the proceeds into an REI sale, I was able to acquire a Kelty Salida 2 tent, a Sierra Designs Zissou (as in Steve) 23 long down bag, and a REI Flash long insulated air mattress. Coupled with the set of Revelate Designs framepack, Viscacha seat bag, and Sweet Roll handlebar bag (via Gypsy), that I've acquired over time, most of the big gaps have been filled.

About as light as most Big Agnes SL series tents, at about half the price.
Spacious for one, plenty for two inside. 
I had originally planned to go with any one of several Big Agnes tents, mostly on their reputation of quality from more seasoned bikepackers. I particularly like the Big Agnes Slater UL2+ and may one day go that route, but for now, in the balance of economics versus how many nights I'm likely to be able to camp to justify a fancier tent, economics won out. There is a bit of a weight penalty, but a pound or so is something that I can live with in the short term.

The Salida 2 itself has a decent reputation as a good value light weight tent, albeit with fewer bells and whistles. The great REI return policy provides a bit of insurance either way. I gave the new items a test with a back yard campout. All seem to be more than good enough for my purposes, and considerably better than my 10 to 20+ year-old, much heavier and bulkier equipment.

As for cooking equipment, I've gone the ultra cheap route. I've now built a few Penny stoves and found them to be a terrific design; nearly free of cost, extremely low mass, using easy to source fuel, and with good fuel consumption. In the same spirit, I sourced an on-sale Stanley 700ml covered pot cook set for $15. There are plenty of lighter pots out there, but it isn't too heavy and it's just about the right size.

I have Lexan utensils, but prefer something that is more heat resistant. I had some cheap, and therefore light, stainless steel utensils in my car camping kit. The only problem was the fork was too long to fit in the Stanley pot. A couple of minutes with a hacksaw and a grinder, and the problem is solved.

Step 1: Hack a bit off the cheap stainless fork...
... so that it's about the same length as the spoon. 
Step 2: Grind a nice curve that can serve double duty as a jelly spreader or tire lever.
Step 3: Beam a little about how this combo is more hobo-chic than a titanium spork, even if it weighs a bit more.
I packed everything up in the bags on the Pugsley and took a little ride with Scout. The whole setup is still missing some food and water, but all of what I'll need for an overnighter is about 87.5% there. The bike is heavy, and it certainly feels somewhat heavy, but is definitely not unrideable. It's just a matter of getting a feel for it in the context of what I hope to do with it, and dialing it in a little more. I'll likely be pushing it up steep hills, but there's a likelihood that I'd be doing that unladen anyway. In all, it's now an all-terrain, two-wheeled RV, and RVs aren't renown for speed.

Hard to tell from this phone pic, but that's a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress going over my neighborhood. Four big radial engines create a nice rumble.
It rolls pretty well loaded.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tour de GREENbike in Salt Lake City

GREENbike is sponsored by Rio Tinto Mining and SelectHealth.
Public bike sharing has gotten a lot of attention as of late. Much of the recent activity is due to the launch of the New York City system, known as Citibike, which instantly became the largest system in the U.S. upon opening. While the size and impact of Citibike will likely change the landscape for bike sharing in this country, there are other, smaller systems that deserve credit for pioneering the concept, especially in places that are far more car-dependent and less dense than NYC. One of these is the GREENbike system in Salt Lake City, which opened a couple of months ago.

A GREENbike station kiosk.

While, at 10 stations, SLC's system is considerably smaller than the 300+ stations in NYC, it is an important step toward changing the way people perceive of transportation in a sprawling western locale. Utah is a great place to ride a bike, but as in many of the states in the region, residents seemingly mentally associate biking within a recreational sphere of activity, more so than for daily transportation. It is a goal of SLC Bike Share, the non-profit owner and operator of GREENbike to promote bicycle use for short utilitarian trips.

Not a traditional bike rental; prices are structured to encourage short-term use and turnover to other riders. It's simple to do a quick check-in and re-check out in the event that you're running out of time and want to keep the bike longer.
The green paint of the bikes is bright and vibrant.
I visited SLC for a conference and made it an objective to try GREENbike. During a lunch break, I completed what may be the first of what I'll call the Tour de GREENbike, similar to the Tour de B-cycle challenge ride that I completed in Denver during the initial year of Denver B-cycle. The Tour de B-cycle in Denver is a self-supported and self-initiated challenge ride to check out, ride and dock a bike at each station in the system, starting and ending at the same station. Check out. Ride. Dock. Repeat.

Map of the SLC GREENbike system.
After an initial setup through the kiosk interface at a station, my Denver B-cycle membership card worked flawlessly at GREENbike stations; reciprocity of use at any B-cycle-sourced system is a great advantage to annual membership. I rode the Tour de GREENbike in the same way that I rode the Tour de B-cycle in Denver, making my way to each of the stations successively, ending where I began. I don't know if or how SLC Bike Share tracks a Tour of their system, which they likely do not as I don't know if it has occurred to them to promote the challenge, but until otherwise I will stake claim to having done the circuit first. In the case that I was not the first to complete the Tour de GREENbike, I am willing to bet that I was the first to complete the circuit wearing a suit and tie.
Yes, that's me in a suit and tie. I had to present a paper at a conference about an hour after this photo.
I started out on GREENbike number 006, but migrated to several others throughout the ride.
I completed the ride on a sunny day of 77F degrees in about an hour, taking time to explore the city a bit, and to catalog some notable bike infrastructure I encountered along the way. It had been several years since I had last visited SLC, and I'd never ridden a bike there, so it was a great way to experience the city.

Painted bike routes were on several streets downtown. This is something that could very well be done in Denver to direct bicyclists along preferred routes.
This appeared to be a bike box designated to help bicyclists turn left, however I was confused a bit by the location of its placement on the street. It had been only recently applied and perhaps it was oriented incorrectly.
This GREENbike station was placed in former on-street car parking spaces and adjacent to a bike lane. This type of outlay could open up some possibilities in several Denver neighborhoods, but as yet has not been implemented in Denver.
This bike shop was actively promoting GREENbike. A rising tide floats all boats, as they say.
I found that much of the area in which SLC's GREENbike stations are located is well-supported through bicycle infrastructure, though there are a few streets that need improvement or where the traffic volume or speed is too high to be comfortable for the key demographic group of "interested but concerned" riders.

I could tell that much of the bike infrastructure was new or recently installed, so it is likely that SLC has made a lot of advancement to support GREENbike and a growing bike culture. Gleaming bike racks were in abundance, as were people riding. I saw evidence of a thriving bike culture not only in tattooed hipsters on fixies and kitted-out mamils, but more importantly, in family groups with kids riding down well-marked lanes, and casually dressed people on three-speeds with baskets of groceries. Fairly impressive.

I finished my circuit of the Tour de GREENbike and celebrated with a bahn mi sandwich from a food truck in a park buzzing with activity. I'm not familiar with the recent history of bicycling in SLC, but it would appear as though the addition of GREENbike and other improvements is aiming the trajectory of biking toward a brighter future.
Me at the finish line, much better prepared for my presentation after some time on a bike.
Having a bahn mi sandwich in a park following a ride is a great recipe for lunch.

Dirt bike dog

This past weekend I was traveling, and was fortunate enough to fit in a couple of rides in Wyoming. Trails abound in the least populated state, and as might be expected, are often empty. Scout and I did our best to cover as much ground as we could. Just like when I was a kid on a ranch, the best compadre to have in such a setting is a dog who loves the dirt.

Our summit photo.

Cool shirt courtesy of Monkey Wrench Cycles.

Following a dip in the water near the end of the ride.