March 26, 2013

Trendy Tuesday

A bike is a bike is a bike, right? Why would you need more than one?

I log most of my miles on my sporty carbon diamond-frame road bike (about 14,000 miles, to date). My trusty steel frame hybrid pre-dates my road bike and is perfect for long commute rides to work.

My third bike, an aluminum triangle-frame folding model, is a little indulgence. It is just right for short trips that involve mass transit.

You see, I rarely drive to work; I am fortunate to rely on a commuter shuttle that stops in my town, zips down the carpool lane along the rush-hour-clogged freeways, and drops me off in front of my building. In the evening, lather/ rinse/ reverse.

Technically, I am off the bike for awhile. Walking to the shuttle stop was possible, but painful and slow. Driving to the shuttle stop was possible, but awkward and slow. (Commuter traffic. School traffic.) Biking to the shuttle stop? Easy and quick.

Herewith, in homage to my friend and stylish cyclist Ladyfleur, I present Trendy Tuesday.

The belt drive on the STRiDA is designed to overcome the greasy-chain prohibitions against carrying a bike on a bus or train; it also keeps my gray dress slacks neat and clean. A chunky scarf not only livens up a basic ivory sweater—it is a practical touch on a chilly spring morning.

No need for special cycling shoes with these platform pedals. Black is certainly the most versatile shoe color, and the open-toe design of these surgical shoes incites me to show off a color-coordinated pair of patterned socks. Reflectors on the pedals and wheels keep me safely visible on the short ride home during the fall and winter, along with an added rear red LED blinkie. Disc brakes stop the bike's little wheels on a dime.

With an elastic cord at the ready, the rear rack is handy for a quick visit to the grocery store on the way home. A traditional messenger bag is indispensable for carrying a laptop and other necessities of daily (work)life. This water-resistant design by Alchemy Goods is made of recycled bicycle inner tubes, with a strap fashioned from a recycled seat belt and a former Presta valve as a zipper pull.

March 9, 2013

Mostly Montebello

I needed a short, but challenging, ride. [Though some would suggest that 35 miles does not constitute a "short" bike ride.]

I plotted out a nice loop, including a lunch stop at a local bakery (a slice of cake with every sandwich!). We followed the route-less-taken to reach Montebello: Mt. Eden and Pierce in reverse. There is a nasty little pitch when you head up Mt. Eden from the south; one rider came to an abrupt stop, and my co-leader remarked that he had not taken this approach in years. I concede that it is steep (but short); my heart rate spiked higher there than anywhere along Montebello.

After sweeping the slowest riders, I fell even further behind the rest of our group. A few friends lingered at the top of Montebello, and we were all impressed with the young dreadlocked guy doing hill repeats.

We were less impressed with the vehicular traffic. There was a big tasting event at Ridge Vineyards; I had never seen so many cars on Montebello. Passing below their upper parking lot, I overheard an attendant say that he needed to park another 100 cars up there. Note to self: in the future, check their event calendar.

Arriving late to the bakery, we were happy to discover a few cyclists from our group had stopped for lunch, as planned.

For the day, 37 miles and some 3,365 feet of climbing. A ride to remember over the coming weeks, as I will be off the bike for a while. A day of stunning views, perfect weather, good food, and great friends.

March 2, 2013

Poster Girl

Driving to the start of today's ride, I reflected on the importance of looking far ahead, whether you happen to be piloting a bicycle or some other vehicle. At 8:30 on a clear Saturday morning, traffic on the freeway was light and flowing smoothly. Until the moment when it wasn't. The lanes ahead were filled with brake lights; I slowed and scanned for the cause.

Straddling the number two lane at an angle, pointing in the wrong direction, was a car with its front end smashed and steaming. An SUV was stopped in the number one lane. I turned on my emergency flashers and eased past the wreck with the rest of those lucky enough not to be involved. I felt grateful that I had not left home a few minutes earlier, or I might have been swept into the chaos.

Evidence of California's driest January-February on record was everywhere on the hillsides; emerald green is rapidly fading to olive. Still, the winter weather felled more trees than I expected. It has been too long since my last visit to Mt. Hamilton.

There is a bulletin board near the mailroom at the top. One of the few items tacked to that board was a sheet, yellowed with age, that described the vital statistics of the climb for cyclists. I was surprised, and a bit sad, when it disappeared last year. I was even more surprised, then, when I recently heard that a certain poster was still on display.

Last Thanksgiving, I wanted to thank the Observatory for their hospitality. We take shelter in their warm lobby, refill our water bottles, use the restrooms, and try not to jam the vending machine with our damp dollar bills. I created a poster, taped it near the mailroom, and set out some markers for my fellow cyclists to add their messages. (They did.)

I don't know if the poster will yellow with age, but for now it hangs over the water fountain—and has collected a few more signatures from grateful cyclists. That makes me smile.