Biking Benefits

Today Benji and I got to do two fun things because we ride a bike for the commute to/from preschool. I’m going to throw in a third related vignette for good measure, but these stories are practically infinite.

1. On the way there, a large work van went by and we saw it had a picture of a forklift on the side. We speculated about whether that meant there were, in fact, forklifts inside the truck/van/thing (Benji was all for this theory).

A little way down the road, there was the van, pulled over on our side of the road. I asked Benji if he wanted to stop and ask if there were forklifts inside, and he really did. So we pulled over next to the truck, the driver rolled down his window, and I asked (Benji was too shy and incomprehensible).

The driver told us that no, there were no forklifts in the back (sad!), but wait! Turns out that he was a forklift repair man going to the siding company across the road to fix one of their forklifts. We looked over there and, gratifyingly, a forklift just in our view picked up a load of pipes* at that moment. We thanked the driver and rode away, highly pleased.

*Autosuggest offered “puppies” instead of “pipes,” a wonderful and rather hilarious mental image.

2. In a very similar vein, on our way home from school, we went by a couple of City of Bothell work vans and trucks parked just off the Sammamish River Trail by a bridge over the slough. They were parked near a large blue tent. We decided to investigate, and the City workers were pleased to tell us what they were doing.

Apparently, wherever a sewer pipe crosses a bridge, even a small one like the one over the slough, there’s a pump to hurry the slurry (so to speak). There’s also a backup generator, in case power goes out. Definitely don’t want that backing up!

Anyway, if I understood correctly, after 35 years, one of the pistons in the backup generator got a hole in it. They ordered a new piston (they’re readily available, apparently, even after three and a half decades) and had just finished replacing it when we came along. The worker showed up pictures of the piston with the hole and the replacement piston.

Benji was very interested. He definitely understood the idea of helpers fixing the broken thing, even if he didn’t understand exactly what the thing was or why it was broken.

3. Finally, last week we were riding home on the road rather than the trail, when a fire engine from Bothell Fire Station 42 went by. Naturally, we waved. But even better for us, the fire station was actually in our route home, and we arrived there in time to see the truck backing into its spot in the garage.

Even more happily, one of the firefighters offered to give us a tour of the trucks, an offer we promptly accepted. We learned that the ladder truck’s ladder can go 100′ up (!) and that they use it for different uses than a tiller truck. The ladder has a bucket on the end that makes it useful for lifting equipment and people quickly, or for rescuing people from very high places. But, the firefighter said, they had to be careful not to bonk into things with the ladder when they turn the 51-foot-long truck, since the ladder extends a long way beyond the rear wheels.

We also learned that the truck had once gone out and rescued a cat from a tree, although they used a shorter ladder for that (they put the cat in a sack to carry out down).

Again, we left highly gratified and with lots of scope for play and stories.

We certainly couldn’t have had any of those exchanges in a car, zooming by too fast to stop. Biking allowed us to enjoy the journey a bit more, rather than just rushing from Point A to Point B. The fact is, although I like technology and efficiency as much as the next person, I have increasingly come to value slow time, one-on-one relationship time that only happens at a rate of one minute per minute. Benji and I have many interesting and, for him, educational conversations on our bike rides that otherwise wouldn’t happen. We certainly do use the car for getting places quickly, but I value and enjoy our biking time especially.

Geeking Out on Bikes

OK, I’m going to take a moment to talk about bikes and biking. I haven’t said much about my riding lately, but that’s not to imply it hasn’t been on my mind. Rather, I deliberately avoid talking bikes too frequently because it’s not a topic of interest to very many people — at least, not many people find it as interesting as I do.

So this is your cue to wander off of bikes bore you.

A few months ago, I noticed the frame of my race bike (dubbed Alexander the Great) had a thin crack in the seat tube. I couldn’t tell if this was just a crack in the paint — they used really thin paint, and it got innumerable dings and cracks in it after I started riding it consistently in March — or, more worrisome, a flaw in the carbon fiber itself. I pointed it out to a bike shop employee, and he said to keep an eye on it. That’s all I did for quite a while.

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Alexander the Great the day I bought him in December 2012.

Time went by and one day, inspecting my frame in bright sunlight, I checked that spot again. I couldn’t be sure, but I thought the crack looked longer. Now out extended into the black frame lettering, so I couldn’t tell how far it went, but the next time I was in the shop with my bike, I spoke with a different employee about it.

He immediately told me it looked like a crack on the frame, since it went the same direction as the weave. Since I had bought the bike within the last 12 months, he arranged for me to get a free frame replacement, with the visit of all the labor of transferring components to the new frame covered by the shop.

When the time came to make the swap, I figured I’d have them do the annual overhaul while the whole bike was torn apart anyway. Turns out that even though I’d only ridden that bike around 3,000 miles (excluding trainer time;  but really, this year’s just looking like a low mileage year), the bottom bracket (a cutting-edge BB 30) required replacement. That explained all the creaking, anyway. The only other changes were new bar tape and new cables. Total, I paid less than $150 for all the work.

Here’s what I got for my money.

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Basically a whole new, totally sweet-looking bike.

I Forgive Your Envy

Day’s Verse:
Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven.
James 1:16b-ish (out of context)

It’s about time I talk about bikes again. Remember Artemis, my Seven Alaris?

The top picture is what she looked like shortly after I bought her in October 2008; the bottom picture is in January 2008, her winter look.
Sunset Artemis

3Jan08 019

Compare that original style to what she looks like now.
Pink Tape

Your keen observational skills will notice that she went from pretty badass, especially in the winter, to just plain pretty. She started off ti with black and red; now she’s ti and pink. Today I swapped out my old black bar tape for the new, free, PINK bar tape I got on my trip to CBS with Dad on Friday. That’s right, the last holdout of black* on Artemis has succumbed to pink. I even used some fun swirly reflective tape on top of the black finishing tape.

Pink Tape Closeup 1

Pink Tape Closeup 2
(This is my first attempt at wrapping bar tape, so I have a lot to learn still, but it turned out tolerably well.)

And you know what? Since I started pinkifying Artemis, I’ve gotten more compliments than ever on her style. Guys, by and large, tell me how good she looks. Seriously! I can’t remember all the admiring conversations I’ve had about her pink coloring. Last spring, I had a (cute) guy in a convertible pull up and say, “Hey, nice pink fenders,” before driving on. I trust he was talking about my bike.

Anyway, I like that as a pink bike, she’s not just your standard black-and-red, which everybody has**. She’s unique, but no less tough for being pink. And it takes guts to ride a pink bike, as the Soft Like Kitten guys will confirm. Of course, I really just do it because pink on this bike makes me happy.

* I know, the bottle cages are still black and red. I want to replace them, but I can’t justify buying new ones when those are perfectly functional. Almost all the pink conversions, excluding the fenders, have been extremely cheap or free. I also would like to get a pink-and-black Lazer helmet (the Genesis or Helium), but again, my blue-and-white one (which was also free) is still perfectly good. Christmas gifts, anybody?
** For example: Here, here, here, and here, just to list a few.

Elevation, Elusive Elevation

Day’s Verse:
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:30-31

Have you noticed how it’s impossible to pin down the actual temperature? You put a thermometer outside (on the north side of the house, under cover, as recommended by people in the know) and it tells you a number. Then you check online, and your local weather station says something perhaps 5° off from your thermometer. Then you get in your car and drive away, and your car tells you a temperature — which is immediately contradicted by the bank’s thermometer and the thermometer in the health club across the street, neither of which agree with your car, the Internet, or your home thermometer. So what is the real temperature?

Elevation has a similar elusiveness to it. People on bikes love to boast to other people about their “total ascent” — number of feet climbed over the ride. Some GPS devices even have a nifty feature that tells you total ascent as you ride, so you know exactly how many feet you’ve climbed at any time. Many training plans include total elevation along with distance. So knowing elevation fairly accurately is something bike people want. My Garmin, an Edge 605, keeps track of elevation, but it’s not quite fancy enough to give me the “total ascent” option, at least not as far as I’ve figured out.

Now, the thing about a GPS is that it just can’t handle vertical changes very accurately. One time I’ll ride on a road and it’ll tell me I’m at -6 feet. The next time I ride on the same road, it’ll tell me I’m at 36 feet. This doesn’t inspire a huge amount of trust in the GPS’s ability to accurately reflect how many feet I’ve climbed.

This is where GPS Visualizer comes in. This is a nifty — and incredibly detailed — website that does all sorts of things with your GPS data. One of those things is creating an elevation profile: it will take your route and, ignoring the GPS elevation data, add up your elevation from reliable sources like the USGS. It displays the resulting elevation profile in a nifty color-coded format. You can actually choose where the elevation data comes from.

Because I’m a nerd and I love data, I decided to do a comparison of the various sources that told me what elevation I’d climbed for today’s ride. My goal was to ride about 65 miles and climb about 4,500 feet. My sources:

Results:

  • SportTracks: +4099 ft / -3978 ft
  • Plus 3 Network: +5162 ft / -5989 ft (the blue line is speed, the grey shaded area elevation)

  • GPS Visualizer from GPS directly: +6243 ft / -6182 ft
    Elevation profile - Garmin GPS data

  • GPS Visualizer using USGS NED data: +5246 ft / -5263 ft
    Elevation profile - USGS NED Database

  • GPS Visualizer using SRTM1 data: +7267 ft / -7279
    Elevation profile - NASA SRTM1 Database

So the question is: Did I meet my goal? If I wanted to impress people, I’d go with the SRTM1 results — 7,000 feet of climbing in 63 miles is nothing to sneeze at! But then, SportTracks gave me a fairly modest 4,100 feet of climbing, not a number that would raise many eyebrows and which is, in fact, under my climbing goal. Who to trust?

Frankly, I trust my legs. They tell me that I went up a lot of hills, more than 4,000 feet but probably not 7,000 feet. That gives me an upper and lower bound, but 4000 ft < X < 7000 ft doesn't narrow it down much. Personally, I'd be inclined to go with around 5,200 ft. But if there's some way to actually figure out the real number, I'd sure like to know. Then again, it may be like temperature: Measurable, but ultimately unknowable.

As It Should Be

Day’s Verse:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Acts 2:42

This is what our garage looks like right now, after I spent the morning cleaning it.

Garage Bike Space

Notice how the car occupies 50% of the space and the bikes occupy 50% of the space? This is the way garages should be organized. Forget hanging your bikes from the ceiling to be taken down a couple nice days in the summer, or burying your bike way in the back behind so much stuff you can hardly get it out. No, bikes as vehicles should be easy in-and-out access the same way a car does. And of course if you have to choose between parking a car in a garage and parking a bike in a garage, the bike should always win. After all, cars withstand the elements much better than bikes do.

Today I also closed two bank accounts and consolidated the money in one account; obtained a pull-up bar (for hanging from at my PT’s behest, I hasten to add, before you think I’m getting all athletic or something); and mounted said bar in my office doorway. I always feel absurdly proud of myself whenever I complete a project like mounting something. Something about pulling out the drill and level makes me feel all handy and talented, even though as home projects go this is about as simple as it’s ever going to get. The evidence suggests my forearm screw-turning muscles are not in good shape.

That said, I’ll also comment that yesterday we had a wonderful day completely unrelated to the garage, bikes, or pull-up bars. After church I took a nap. Then we made twice baked potatoes and lemon meringue pie (I saw it on the menu at Metropolitan Grill and simply couldn’t resist). Rachel and Ryan came over, and we all ate and played Gloom and watched Murder by Death. We all had a fun time hanging out, eating, and killing characters off. A good time was definitely had by all.