Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hwy 75

About a month ago, I wrote about a public meeting concerning the expansion of Hwy 75. Tonight was the final public meeting about it.

I showed up about a half hour late, and found the building almost empty. I found out that the council convened the meeting, then a member of the council spoke for a few minutes. Of late, the conversation surrounding this plan had turned increasingly emotional. As a result, the city council decided to "table the project indefinitely."

 Among other things, the council expressed hurt at the way that the city council had been labeled as not caring about the safety of the people of the city.

I spoke to a few people who had been at the meeting, and the response to the cities decision was mixed. Some were please with the way that the council defused an increasingly emotional issue, others thought that the council tried to make themselves look like the victims.

My feelings are mixed. I was not very excited about the prospect of a five lane cutting through town. Our downtown is nothing special, but a five lane would have made the environment downtown worse. That said, K and I were very excited about the improvements to pedestrian crossings. The tentative plans included islands, pedestrian activated strobe crossings, and bump outs to facilitate traffic calming. I fear it will be several years, if at all, before any of those will happen now that the expansion project is tabled.

I believe that they council wants to do what is best for the city. Unfortunately they failed to sell the project to the town, and consequently got villainized by the citizen led opposition. In the past weeks, a website, a Facebook page, flyers and mailers raised considerable opposition against the project.

Overall, we live in a town that is quite bike and pedestrian friendly. I do look forward to the possibly that my children will have multiple points to cross the highway in safety. I do hope that future projects will have a nuanced view of the needs of the people of this city, and give the people of this city a more interactive role in planning.

Friday, March 22, 2013

A one car family for awhile...

This Monday the low coolant light went on in our car. Early Tuesday the car went into the shop, and by mid-morning, the car was ruled dead. The car is leaking coolant from the radiator and the water pump, and shows signs of a leaking head gasket as well. Cost of repair would nearly amount to the value of the car. We decided to get rid of the car in the state that it was in. Who ends up with the vehicle has yet to be determined.

We knew a vehicle replacement was coming, but I had hoped it would wait for a year yet. We both dislike the idea of a car loan, so we will be running on one car for awhile. Depending on who you are, that can be seen as a blessing or a curse. One less vehicle to fuel, insure, maintain, (an ironclad excuse to go by bike)-or a serious limit in mobility and flexibility in planning. My job is ten miles away, and my morning schedule makes commuting by impossible. Thankfully I have a carpool that is easily available four days out of the week.  I also have an older motorcycle that will be coming into use as soon as the morning commute temp clears 40 (below that, it stops being fun). My wife is more than willing to run errands by foot or bike (I love her dearly, just we're clear) as soon as the temps get kid friendly.

Needless to say, I'm looking forward to spring.

I've admired those who have made do without cars, and envied those who lived in places where transport by bike was the enjoyable and obvious option. We are very fortunate to be in a situation (and an approaching season) where using a single car is really pretty easy. Aside from work, our daily errands can all be run within the confines of our small town.

I feel that so many of us own multiple cars for that one time when they will all be "needed." I've owned a jeep for nearly a decade, and its four wheel drive and cargo capability are utilized maybe a few times a year. The rest of the year, I pay the fuel bill that those capabilities demand. This single car business is forcing us to consider needs vs wants, and it will be interesting to see what survives as a need on the other end of this.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Bike Shop:3/16/13


Task: Overhaul of three Schwinn 1990s? era mountain bikes. All from same family, almost identical issues  All 3x7 GripShift, with cantilever brakes, no suspension.

Red Schwinn: Replace seat, both Grip Shifts, grips. Tune and lube. 1 hr
Blue Schwinn: Replace seat, grips, pie plate, rear tire. Tune and Lube 1 1/4 hr
Green Schwinn: Replace seat, both Grip Shifts, grips, pie plate, chain, front wheel and tire. 1 3/4 (multiple walk-ins)

Lesson: The Green Schwinn had significant damage to the ends of the handlebars. I attempted to file the ends smooth, which had worked on the previous bikes, but that was unsuccessful. Final Solution: Hacksaw off damage, file burrs off, and we're good to go.

Off topic: Perhaps it's growing up riding bikes like these, but while taking them for test drives, all I could think was "curb hop, curb hop, curb hop."

Friday, March 15, 2013

Bike Shop: 3/14/13

[As an attempt to keep tabs on improvement as a bike wrench, I'll be doing reports on work at the shop. Will include type of work, time on tasks, and any lessons learned. While I cannot hope to replace Sheldon Brown, I can try to pay forward some of the knowledge I've gained. To anyone with any experience on bikes, my problems and lessons will seem laughably amateur.]


Task: Assembled two new bikes, a Cypress (hybrid) and a Dash (roadbike with mountain type bars) I spent two hours putting them together. I feel like it should take about half that long. Most of my time (that I feel I can improve on) is spent fooling with the indexing.
Problem: Front derailleur on Dash jammed when shifting to large ring.
Lesson: Moved derailleur up. This enabled the chain to clear the shift without wedging between ring and derailleur cage. Problem solved, though I'm not impressed by the default setting up of this particular bike. Chainwheel, chain and derailleur are pretty much fixed sizes, shouldn't they be easy to put in the correct spot when you're making several thousand of them?

Off topic: There is a bat(bats?) in the rafters.

Monday, March 11, 2013


This weekend the good folks at RAGBRAI put out the detailed route for this summer's ride. As someone who's interest in cycling was kicked off by the 2012 event, I've been watching the announcements very closely. The route this year is one of the easiest ever, a response in part to the severity of last year. Although last year was not too challenging in terms of terrain, high heat made many of the longer rides unbearable and unsafe.

The route this year starts in Council Bluffs (Omaha, NE), runs over to Des Moines, then down to Fort Madison in the SE corner of the state.

Bigger version and route details here

I know the terrain from Council Bluffs to Des Moines fairly well, the Loess Hills region is very lovely, but full of big sweeping rollers. The route runs parallel to those hills, but they'll have to be climbed sooner or later. I know very little about SE Iowa, but the ride will average downhill. The day after Des Moines will feature a mile long bridge crossing of Lake Red Rock. Should be lovely, provided the wind stays down.

I've only done a single day of RAGBRAI, and as I mentioned, it did not go as well as it could have. This year I hope to complete a another day ride. Right now, leaving my wife at home with a toddler and an infant so I can ride (and eat and drink) my way across Iowa for week seems really selfish.

The same brother that I rode with last year lives in the Des Moines area, so I'm hoping to do the ride coming in to Des Moines. Should be a nice 50ish mile day. I'd love to do the century ride from Harlan to Perry, but the extra overnight is causing some logistic issues. There's no way--that I am aware of--that you can request camping for a single night of the week. There is also no way that I know of to get gear transport for a single day. This means a self supported tour load on my (probably) first century, with a search for a campsite in a seriously overloaded small Iowa town. Anybody know anybody with an available couch in Perry? (Yes, I've tried and

For now I'll be content with a single day.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Porteur Rack: Second Impressions

I've been riding with the porteur rack for about a week and a half now, and though I've found some definite faults, I'm very pleased overall.

One of the big issues is vibration. Since the rack is above and forward of the hub, any bumps in the road get transferred straight to the rack, and the movement is actually slightly increased on the front end of the rack. My most common cargo is muffins carried in a large (2'x3') plastic container. Any bumps rattle the container, shuffling the cargo around. If I want to keep making these deliveries by bike, I cannot have any casualties. Possible solutions include running the front tire at a lower pressure, or putting a towel in the containter to absorb some of the vibration.

The second issue is height. The rack ended up about three inches above the fender. In many cases, this puts any cargo I carry above the line of my handlebar mounted headlight. Even if the rack was moved down, any larger cargo would still get in the way. None of my bikes have any sort of mid fork braze on, but there has to be some way to get a light mounted either on the underside of the rack, or on to the fork.

Managing the bike is also a bit of an adjustment. Especially when the load is very wide, the handling becomes almost boat like. Any wiggling when starting from a dead stop can throw your balance off. It's not unpleasant, just different.

Those issues aside, I've been very happy with how the rack is performing. It's been solid, no creaks or clanks, and has handled everything that I throw at it. No paint as of yet, that will have to wait until we get warmer weather.