Archive for the 'Bike Commuting' Category

Mushroom hunting at 20 mph

Posted by Nate in Bike Commuting, Bruno, Weather.
Monday, September 22nd, 2008 at 9:47 am

I took one of the longer routes in on my bike today, and as I zipped through one particularly wooded trail section I found myself trying to scan the ground for signs of mushrooms.  Not very easy at that speed!

We had much better luck yesterday, when Karen and I took Bruno for a walk in the river gorge.  Mere feet away from the steps leading down the ridge we saw numerous … somethings … in several clumps on the ground.  White spores and otherwise fairly indistinct makes it pretty hard for us rookies to identify.  20080922081643_2878534979_79bc5ef4d0_o.jpgThen after another few steps off the trail Karen spotted these guys at right: awesome!  I don’t remember it now, but we were able to pretty positively identify them.

All in all a very successful outing.  What a difference to explore some of these areas after the rains we had last week – we were in similar terrain with my parents a few weeks ago when it was still dry and it was hard to find anything!  Now they’re popping up everywhere.

Saturday morning was also a good hunt – Karen had to help run a watershed cleanup down in Hastings, and I got come along and "help", that is, hunt mushrooms if I promised to take a trash bag with me and also collect any trash I saw.  I ended up filling a few bags of trash, and also finding some really big gilled mushrooms and a few nice sized boletes.  … all of which defied identification.  One of the young gilled specimens had a pretty cool cortina (I think – basically a cobweb protection around the gills), and sort of purple flesh, but even with those good clues I couldn’t figure it out.  The bolete flesh turned reddish brown when exposed to air, and all the ones I found were enclosed in a partial veil of some sort.  Also good clues, but not enough for me to figure out.

Great hunting, though!  Next I think I need to start identifying trees more accurately, as that will give me a better clue as to what mushrooms might be growing near them…

The take-away message: hunt slowly, not at 20 mph.  The act of stopping and stooping to grab a piece of trash often lead my eyes to a mushroom that I would certainly have walked past, even though I was actively looking for them.  It’s important to mix it up, crouch down, and always check the back side of the trees!


Pony Express!

Posted by Karen in Beer, Bike Commuting.
Monday, June 16th, 2008 at 8:53 pm

It was just yesterday that I said, when describing my bike’s new carrying capacity, "the possibilities are endless".  How right I was.

Today  I tried out my rack and pannier for the first time and carried my laptop, a bunch of work stuff, food, a change of clothes and more on the 9.2 mile ride in on my pony with amazing ease.  I really didn’t even notice a difference – except when I was carrying my bike down the stairs at my building and it was crazy heavy.
For the ride home I had anticipated a light load, but wait!  What’s that in the photo, nestled down in there, having just been safely transported by me and my pony the 9.2 miles home?  Why, I think it’s – it is!  A growler of beer from Fitger’s Brewhouse! 

My coworker dropped this delightful growler of Hefe Roggen off 20080616193315_growler.jpgat the office for me on her way back into town from Duluth, and while at first I thought I’d leave it in the office fridge till tomorrow, when I have to drive, then I thought, I’m gonna have to find out how lots of beer fares in the pannier sooner or later, may as well be today.  As it turns out, it works perfectly.  It wasn’t even all that snug I might add – in fact, I dare say I could probably fit 2 growlers!  Good to know, good to know. 

I’m participating in this Bike2Benefits program, where you commit to bike, ride the bus, or carpool at least once a week for 8 weeks, and then are entered to win sweet free stuff.  The coolest part is they have this calendar thingy where you enter when you ride your bike and how far your commute was, and it tracks how many miles you’ve ridden, how much money you’ve saved (based on a per mile cost for maintenance, tires, and gas at $3.50/gallon, which it is already more than), how much less CO2 you’ve emitted than if you’d driven, and how much less air quality pollution you’ve created than if you’d driven (carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, and organic compounds, three of the most common pollutants).  And after only 3 days of bike commuting, I’ve ridden 55 miles, saved $12.65, produced 54.22 lbs less CO2 and 2.19 lbs less air quality pollution!

Another Post About Biking

Posted by Karen in Bike Commuting.
Sunday, June 15th, 2008 at 3:38 pm

The financial goal of yesterday’s sale was to make enough dough to buy me a ra20080615142632_rackpannier.jpgck and  pannier for my bike, so that my bike commute would be a much more pleasant experience.  We ended up making about $200, which was more than enough to get me this sweet rack and pannier bag!  As you can see, it is big enough even to fit my laptop, though that also makes it heavy as all get-out.  I’m going to give it a 20080615142610_inside_pannier.jpgwhirl tomorrow, and I’m super excited!  I normally won’t have nearly as much stuff in it, but it’s nice to know that I can if I need to!  And now I’ll be able to bike to the store for groceries, to the park with a pair of cleats and a soccer ball in there, to a bbq with a couple of 6-packs… you see, the possibilities are endless.  And it has a sweet little side pocket that holds a rain cover.  I will now be unstoppable.  Except for that whole scared of cars + not the best balance thing.  Still working on that.

Everyone keeps being all shocked and horrified that I’m riding that far on big fatty mountain bike tires.  I think they’re a bunch of babies, but I might just check into some road tires, but it sure seems like a slippery slope to me.  This week a rack and a pannier, next week new tires, then handlebar streamers… where oh where do you draw the line?

More biking

Posted by Nate in Bike Commuting.
Friday, June 13th, 2008 at 7:51 pm

Tired of the biking updates?  Sorry.  :)

I’ve been a bit of a slacker after indoor soccer season ended (although we’re getting a game together this Sunday!), and the beer was beginning to turn into a belly.  Time for more miles on the bike, and what better way than to extend the commute?

This new route to work clocks in at about 12.2 miles — although I actually think it’s 12.5 with all the curves and small hills I couldn’t map.  Bottom line, though, is it’s the most beautiful route ever.  (And I couldn’t even find pictures of the part that feels like you’re zipping through Endor on a speeder bike…)  It’s amazing that other than the beginning and a few blips between the lakes I can basically feel like I’m nestled in the woods somewhere on some fairly remote trails.  The trees are exploding with growth, the streams are full, the birds are singing…  Just amazing.

Note to everyone else:  my left hand up means I’m turning right.  I’m not waving at you.  Also, turn off your iPod:  I need you to move over when I yell "On your left!!"  Listen to the birds.  Listen to the river.  Listen to your wheels humming along.  Listen to your breath.  It’s safer to turn off your iPod.

Took this route three times this week, and I’m loving it.  Fast bike, good weather, hard ride, what can I say?  It’s a beautiful thing…

Bike rides and booby traps

Posted by Nate in Bike Commuting, Bruno.
Monday, June 9th, 2008 at 6:29 pm

20080609171021_pict0001.jpgI stayed home from work today to save time on commuting for an offsite meeting, so I got to see Karen off to work on her bike — and snap a few pics!

20080609171015_pict0002.jpgHer messenger-style bag seen here is actually pretty uncomfortable so I loaned her mine, but I think we’ll end up getting her a rack and pack to go on there.  It’s just a lot easier ride without a bulky pack on your back…

20080609171003_pict0003.jpgShe just got home after riding into the wind all the way and it sounds like it was a rough ride…  especially after working out yesterday.  But she made it, and going to go again later this week!

20080609170956_pict0004.jpgLast week we found these sweet Ikea chairs at a local garage sale and snapped them up.  Here’s a shot of one of them and Bruno sleeping next to it – where we want him to be.

20080609170948_pict0005.jpgUnfortunately, we’ve been finding dog hair on the chairs lately.  Seems Mr. Man has been climbing up there for a little nap while we’re gone…  So I built a booby trap, old-school style: a simple buzzer circuit with a gravity switch.  The circuit is completed when the nickel (attached to a thread from the top of the chair) drops between the two strips of foil, and the buzzer goes off.

20080609170933_pict0006.jpgToday I came home from my meeting to find two Bruno-sized paw indentations on the chair – but no dog hair!  Now I guess I just have to set up something for the other chair and hope eventually he stops trying…  Naughty dog!

Planet: saved.

Posted by Nate in Bike Commuting.
Tuesday, May 20th, 2008 at 8:43 pm

Not one, but TWO members of the Duoteam household rode their bicycles to work today.  That’s right, Karen rocked the 18+ mile roundtrip ride to downtown St. Paul, and she did it with class and style!! Bruno, as usual, ran on his enormous hamster wheel for a few hours to generate electricity for our computers, lights, and refrigerator.  I’d say we’ve just about got this planet saved, kids…

How about that…

Posted by Nate in Bike Commuting, Weather.
Tuesday, January 8th, 2008 at 7:59 am

I’ve been noticing as I leave work that my bike lights seem less and less necessary since it’s been so much brighter. At first I thought maybe it was the snow reflecting more light, but it’s also definitely been staying lighter later.

I was confused since I noticed this about a week ago and the solstice had only just passed – how can it be this much brighter already? And why is the morning still so darn dark if the days are really getting that much longer?

Turns out (and I’m fuzzy on the exact details) that it’s got something to do with the tilt of the earth and the fact our solar orbit is an ellipse rather than a circle. Basically, the sunrise times and sunset times move slightly out of sync. If you graph them they still look sort of like sine waves, but they’re shifted just out of phase.

Our sunrises continue to be later (darker longer) all the way through December 27th, almost a week after the solstice, but our sunsets start getting later (lighter longer) on December 10th! The combination of movement puts our shortest day (and everyone’s) on the 21st, but I never really did the figuring to realize how differently the sunrise and sunsets change.

And now it’s in your brain, too.

Below zero biking!

Posted by Nate in Bike Commuting.
Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008 at 10:04 am

The good news: the Climitts work great!  I wore some decent gloves under them, and while my fingers were a little cold starting out they were toasty by the time I arrived.  I’m learning to judge when cold digits are going to be a problem: if things are still cold when I make my turn off the greenway (about 3.5 miles in) I’m going to be a sad panda when I make it work.

The bad news: my toes were cold when I made the turn and were indeed popsicles when I arrived.  Doing fine now, and not nearly as bad as my fingers were that first day, but I definitely need to find either better shoes or better socks.  The hiking boots and smartwool combo only seems to cut it down to maybe 0°, not so much on days like today.

Overall today was the toughest ride yet – the coldest and most snow.  I was pretty exhausted trying to crank up the last hill, and the whole ride took much longer than normal.  There’s about an inch of packed powder snow on the greenway and the top is soft enough I’m having to burn energy cutting through it – and the streets by our house are almost entirely ice!  That was actually the sketchiest part, but only a few blocks.

I need to mess with the Climitt/handlebar attachment a bit more when it’s warmer.  My brake cables seem to stick out further than they’re designed for, and while it works as-is I think I can tweak it a bit better.  Right now there’s a little gap where cold air can come in, I’d really like to get them sealed and I think my hands will be warm from start to finish.

Thanks, Laurel!

Winter biking!

Posted by Nate in Bike Commuting.
Monday, December 10th, 2007 at 10:57 am

Today was the day.  I’d finally had enough with excuses, so even though I still have a bit of a cold I dressed up, pulled out the bike, and hit the snow-packed trail to work.  It was awesome!

  • Temperature: 10F, pretty calm day, sun shining.
  • I wore some nice socks and my hiking boots: feet never started to get cold.
  • Synthetic long underwear, two pairs of boxer briefs, and shorts for my legs: also plenty warm.
  • Synthetic long sleeve undershirt, synthetic light-weight jacket with neck zipper, and a nice rain jacket outer layer to block the wind: waaay too warm by the time I got there.  Started sweating out, which can be dangerous if I ever have to stop.  Need to unzip my neck, open the chest a bit, and unzip the underarm vents as I warm up next time.
  • Lightweight hat and velcro face protector: super warm.  May need to vent my head better.
  • Synthetic liners and my new lobster gloves: freezing freakin’ cold finger tips.  My fingers must have extra bad circulation or something, or maybe I should try without the liners in case things were too tight?  I don’t know, but it was really painful when I arrived…  I had to run them under some lukewarm water for a minute or two to make things feel better, and they’re still (2 hours later) a little sensitive.  Hmm.  I may need to get some pogies to put my hands in.

Overall impressions of the ride: the snow makes me go slower.  The Midtown Greenway’s been plowed pretty well, but there’s about 1/2" to 1" of packed snow on most of the surface.  (that picture’s from last year, when we had much less snow)  Thanks to the plowing there aren’t many tire track ruts, but there’s just enough unevenness and slipping potential to make me slow down and really focus on the terrain.  I have to work at keeping my upper body relaxed: my instinct is to tighten up to keep my front wheel aligned, but it’s actually much easier and safer to stay loose and react gently rather than trying to keep it tight.

(actually, that may be part of my cold finger issue – may have been gripping too tight, combined with a slower ride generating less internal heat.  Hmm.)

The on-street portion of the ride was good; I have to jump out more into the lane where it’s been plowed, but I never really felt unsafe or like I was impeding traffic.

We’ll see how it goes tonight in the dark, but so far it’s a blast!

DIY helmet lights

Posted by Nate in Bike Commuting, Projects.
Monday, November 5th, 2007 at 9:35 pm

So the ride home was awesome, windy and brisk, but the wind was mostly with me.  Still not pitch dark at 5 by any means, but it’s dark enough I’m glad to have the light — and it’s super bright!  I still love the Cat Eye for the ground view in front of me, but having a light on my head is awesome!  I can look at a stop sign on the next block and see it blinking back at me, then move my head and it disappears.  It’s a 1/2 watt LED with a really focused lens so it throws a tight beam quite a long way.

pict0001.JPGBut the whole contraption, as I mentioned, was way too bulky and unsafe in case of an accident.  Taking a leaf out of Apple’s MagSafe book, I decided to go with magnets as my "quick-release" mechanism instead of velcro.  I bent a bit of scrap metal into a Z to allow me some leeway to aim and super glued it to the front piece of the light.  This would pict0008.JPGattach to a rare earth magnet on the brim of the helmet.

I intended to glue some metal to the battery case (two AAAs now) and stick this to more permanent magnets on the helmet, but the batteries themselves provided enough sticking power when I used two magnets.  These went along the back right, anpict0007.JPGd in the dead center of the back I glued one more bit of scrap to attach the rear blinker.

I had to bend more metal and wedge it into the clip of the blinker so the magnet could grab something – it almost worked on the batteries inside but not quite.

pict0010.JPGNow I have a super low-profile helmet during the day – just three magnets and a bit of metal – and it converts with a few clicks for night biking!  I’ll have to get it back on my head tomorrow and see how it’s aiming, but early testing looks good.  The super glue seems plenty strong, and I can swing my head around pretty fast without any wobble in the lights.  Sweet!