Biking

Bikes

picture of a Centurion Accordo RS bicycle

I biked as a kid, of course, like everyone did, but that stopped once I got my driver's license. After graduating college and moving to California in 1985, I bought a Centurion Accordo RS bike for $320.

I rode that bike for a couple years, then didn't ride it at all from 1987 through 1991, then started riding it again from 1991 to 1999.

picture of a Bianchi Eros bicycle

In 1999 I bought a 1997 model Bianchi Eros bicycle for $750, a good price at the time. The Eros had a triple ring, and was meant as more of a sporty touring bike, rather than being either a purely fast or touring bike. It also introduced me to indexed shifting, vs. the older friction shifters on the Accordo. That bike served me well, as I commuted by bike two or three times a week for a while.

picture of a KidzTandem bicycle

The Eros didn't see much action from 2001 to 2007 because the kids were young and I didn't have spare time to ride. But in 2007, I started making time to ride, and my daughter, Clara, caught the bug too. It was kind of a drag following her around at 7 mph, so I did some research on tandems and found the most wonderful thing, invented and built by Chris Brown of Brown Cycles in Colorado. The KidzTandem has small geometry up front for a child and adult sized geometry in back. The bike is steered from the rear via a pushrod, and the shifting and break controls are in the rear as well. The advantage of this system is that the parent can keep an eye on the child at all times without having to look over the shoulder, and the child gets a front row seat of the action, rather than having to stare at dad's sweaty back.

Clara and I rode it maybe a couple dozen times, the longest was 26 miles, but as Clara got older, she was more interested in riding her own bike. At some point I replaced the road bike handlebars with mountain bike handlebars, as the former tended to hit Clara in the back when turning at low speed. After going for a complete year without being ridden, the bike was sold on Craigslist.

picture of a 2009 Specialized Roubaix Compact bicycle

In 2009, I brought my Bianchi Eros to the local bike shop for an overhaul, and they told me they couldn't get replacement parts for such an old bike. I bought a new bike on the spot (more on that in a moment), but I held onto the Eros. Two months of haunting ebay and I was able to get all the parts I needed for the overhaul. It cost me $500 for the parts and labor, but the bike was fantastic once again.

When I couldn't fix the Eros right away, I bought a 2009 Specialized Roubaix Compact on the spot. I regretted not being able to savor the chance to consider all the options, but at the time I was just about to do the 2009 Austin Livestrong ride, and I needed a bike fast. There was disappointingly little improvement when changing from the 12 year old, $750, steel framed bike to a new, $1800, all carbon fiber bike. I'm sure some people can tell, but I couldn't.

picture of a 2011 Felt Nine Sport bicycle

After moving to a house which backed onto the Austin Barton Creek greenbelt, a friend convinced me to try mountain biking. I bought a 2011 Felt Nine Sport mountain bike. The "Nine" in the name refers to the fact that it has 29 inch wheels. After a year of owning it, I had put on less than one hundred miles on it, so it was sold on craigslist.

picture of a 2012 Specialized Roubaix Compact bicycle

In mid 2012, I noticed a fine crack running around the bottom bracket on each side of my Roubaix. Even though the bike was more than three years old, the bike seller, Bicycle Sport Shop, took one look and said: we need to replace the frame. There were no spare 2009 frames, so Specialized gave me a new 2012 Specialized Roubaix Compact as a replacement, no charge to me. That is the kind of service that builds loyal customers.

Night Riding

When we were living near Dripping Springs, I probably did half of my riding at night, for a few reasons.

I did a few things to ensure I could be reasonably safe. The first thing was that I had a Princeton Tech Switchback 2 mounted on the handlebars. I augmented this by mounting a Princeton Tech Apex on my helmet, which allowed me to illuminate spots that I wasn't directly steering towards. This was especially important as there frequently were skittish deer along the dark roads. Riding along and hearing the deer bolt and race alongside the bike without being able to see them was unsettling.

In addition to the lights, I wore a reflective mesh jersey, and I never rode while the bars were open, nor on a Friday or Saturday night, when teens were likely to be about. I also limited myself to doing just the one route, to minimize surprises, and because I knew there was very little traffic. Honestly, I felt safer riding at midnight on those nights than I did riding during the day.

That all stopped at the end of 2009 when we moved closer to town, as I didn't feel I could ride safely at night there.

Bike Data

Technology had advanced by the time I started riding again in 2007. Once it seemed like the revival of the habit might stick, I sprang for a Garmin Edge 305 bike computer. In addition to the usual time of day, speed, and distance readings, the 305 has a GPS receiver and a barometric altimeter, which means it shows elevation, grade, and routing. The data is logged and can be downloaded from the unit and analyzed later.

Although I am not a competitive rider (even if I wanted to be), it is still fun to look over the data after each ride and have a keepsake after putting in all that effort.

Since buying the Edge 305, I've uploaded all my rides and other activities to Garmin Connect.

In 2012, I started logging my rides to Strava. However, you can't really see much of my data on Strava unless you are a signed in member of Strava as well. Below is a list of my most recent rides. Strava is a lot of fun, as you can compare your ride times on various road segments vs. all the others who have ridden the same segment, and against yourself. As I'm not a strong rider, I will never be on top of any them, but it is still fun to compare.

Here are year by year stats for my road bike riding since I bought the GPS.

Year Rides Distance Hrs:Min Climbing (ft) feet/mi Avg. MPH
2007 57 1217 82:02 78,678 65 14.8
2008 85 1470 94:36 91,428 62 15.5
2009 100 2468 154:43 138,330 56 16.0
2010 65 1273 83:56 80,843 64 15.2
2011 87 2112 131:11 135,685 64 16.1
2012 99 2587 157:12 157,190 61 16.5
2013 96 2985 179:21 140,347 47 16.6
2014 97 3301 195:59 137,941 42 16.8
2015 109 2437 147:35 126,358 52 16.5
2016 145 2800 156:27 120,801 43 17.9

Technical Difficulties

I don't have a comprehensive photo history of all the problems I've had, but here are a few.

me holding up the damaged front wheel of my Accordo

This is probably from 1997 or 1998, in San Jose. I was commuting two or three times a week to my job, about 12 miles each way. A truck had spilled some water on the road, and as I accelerated while turing left, my tire hit the wet patch and I went down. This was before cell phones were that common, so I walked to a nearby business and they kindly let me call Susan for a ride. This was the Accordo RS.

a bike tire with a dime-sized hole in the casing

August 2009 -- while riding on Dripping Springs back roads, out of the blue I heard a firecracker crisp pop. I've never had any flat like it before or since. I used the old folded up dollar trick and a spare tube to get back home. No ordinary patch kit patch would have held together the shredded remains of the tube that herniated out of that hole in the casing.

a bike tire with a large screw through the sidewall

This is probably from 2009 as well, but I don't recall exactly when or where. Often one gets a flat from a small puncture which leads to a slow leak. Some can be difficult to locate, but not this one. The screw was thrust in with enough force that it had actually penetrated the aluminum rim and it took some effort to remove it.

my forarm with a nice scrape after brushing a tree mountain biking

April 2012 -- I had just started mountain biking and bounced off a tree as I passed it, giving me this souvineer.

my forarm with a nice scrape after a mountain biking endo

June 2012 -- the first and only time I tried putting clipless pedals on my mountain bike. On this particular day, that was a mistake, as I endo'd going down a steep and rocky section and landed squarely on my elbow. It stung but didn't cause any real problems.