Friday, March 23, 2012

Taco, anyone? (AKA breaking the chain and more)

Last Friday looked like it was going to be a great day. First of all, it was Friday. Hard to complain about that. It was also the day some of my coworkers were throwing a baby shower for me at work... there's only about a month left now until I become a dad. So, naturally I was excited about that, too.

Otherwise, it was a day like any other weekday I've had for the last three years or so. I loaded up my panniers in the morning in preparation for my regular bike commute to work. It's a nice seven or seven and a half mile ride to the office, and it's always one of the highlights of my day. About two miles into my ride, two of the bike paths along my route intersect. This is where things got interesting last Friday.

There's a small incline up from Four Mile Run to the Mount Vernon Trail. I stood on the pedals to ride up it. In a matter of a split second, I was lying on the ground on my right side, my bike still between my legs, but obviously no longer upright. My feet had come unclipped from my pedals, so getting up was pretty easy, and the adrenaline masked the pain of the cuts and bruises that were already forming.

A cyclist behind who had been riding close behind me and obviously saw me fall stopped and made sure I was okay. After I assured her that I was fine, she pedaled on, and I began to look over the condition of my bike to try to figure out why I had fallen do suddenly and what damage, if any, had resulted. This is what I saw.

My wheel had gone from a nice straight, true wheel to an item of Mexican food, severely tacoed. The only other damage to the bike was a broken chain. The only hypothesis I can come up with to explain what happened is that the chain gave way and somehow whipped it's way into and among the spokes in such a way as to compromise the wheel, damage it irreparably, and bring me and my bike crashing to the ground. I'm still not sure how even that could have wreaked such havoc, but I am at a loss for all other possible explanations. (I do, by the way, clean and lubricate the drive train fairly regularly, so I'm not quite sure even what caused the chain to go...) Remarkably, the fork and rack seem unscathed.

So, I had to make the dreaded call of shame, have my poor pregnant wife get out of bed earlier than I know she would have liked, and ask her to pick me up at the nearest convenient road for me to walk my wounded bike and body to so I could throw my bike in the back of the car and get a ride to work. Thanks again for coming to my rescue, babe!

Not how I had hoped that Friday would go. And my bike wasn't all that was damaged, as you can well imagine. I had a couple bumps and bruises, largely not too visible, except for this, the back of my right leg. 

This picture was after two or three days of healing. I'm pretty well healed  up now, though.
It's been a long week without bike commuting. I've had to readjust to taking the metro this week, a bit of a painful process since it almost doubles my commute time and makes me susceptible to crap like this, which is what I had to contend with for the commute home/to class on Monday. Took me nearly an hour at the station just to to get myself on a train that day. When Belna's (my bike) in working order, I can more or less make a round trip to the office and back in that same hour.

I have placed an order for a new front wheel and chain, which I should have in my possession by early next week. So, my bike and I will be back up and at 'em soon, once again able to relish the joy that is my bike commute.

Oh, and the wheel's a special one, so more to come for sure about it here, but for those who want the inside scoop in the meantime, it's got a Shimano Alfine generator hub. Very exciting...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Going the Distance (Bengaluru)

As I've perhaps mentioned before, I'm a bit of a nerd when it comes to keeping track of the number of miles I've ridden on my bike. It's helpful when it comes to remembering to do routine bike maintenance and having an idea of how often things like brake pads, chains, and gear cassettes wear out. 

I also find that it's motivational to be able to look back after some time and see how far I've gone. For instance, looking back in December to see that I've ridden over 3,100 miles on my bike just commuting to and from work over the course of the year does give me a bit of a sense of accomplishment.

Yesterday, I tallied up the miles I've ridden on my bike since I started commuting about three years ago. The tally, for commuting miles alone, was just over 8500 miles. 

With that in mind, I decided it was time to take a stab at an idea I've been kicking around for a while for a series of posts - highlighting some general information and some things about bicycles and cycling from a distant location. Using Google Maps distance measurement tool, I found a spot on the map that is the same distance away from home as I've ridden so far on my bike (in the year, say, or in this case the commuting miles I've accumulated since I started riding again a few years ago). Today's result: Bangalore, India.

So, without further ado, I present to you the inaugural post in the "He's Going the Distance" series.

Bangalore (Bengaluru)

The name Bangalore is an anglicized version of the city's actual name, which, in Kannada, the language spoken by around 38 million people living in that part of southern India, is Bengaluru. In much the same way as Bombay is now better referred to as Mumbai, Bangalore is more appropriately called Bengaluru or so it seems, so I'll refer to it as such for the rest of this post.

Bengaluru's situated at an elevation of nearly 1,000 meters, yet despite its relatively high elevation manages to average high temperatures of over 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer months. It is India's fastest growing metropolitan area, and now has a population of almost 8.5 million, more than five times its population 40 years ago. It was the first Indian city with electricity and it is home to the Indian Institute of Science, "the premier institute for scientific research and study in India". It is a high-tech hub and has been referred to by some as the Silicon Valley of South Asia, which makes its sister city relationship with San Francisco all the more logical. I suppose San Jose, Palo Alto, Mountain View, or Cupertino would be a better pairing in that respect, but I, for one, am willing to accept San Fran as a proxy for Silicon Valley, USA.

But I digress... Let's move on to a few cycling-related tidbits about Bengaluru.
  • Since Bengaluru is a sister city with San Francisco, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to have found this post from the SF portion of StreetsBlog. Bengaluru, at least as of 2009, saw regular critical mass rides, just as many major US do.
    Unlike US cities, which by and large have seen an increase in cycling in the last 10-20 years, Bengaluru's mode share is decreasing. It's down to 6% (as of 2009) from 16% a decade prior. 
    Picture of girls riding to school from the SF Streetblog post
  • While its website appears somewhat dormant (look at the pot calling the kettle black), there is also an organization called Ride a Cycle, that's a more mainstream advocacy group working to improve conditions and promote cycling, seemingly along the same lines as WABA in the DC area, at least in terms of approach if not level of activity
  • *Apparently, there are more than a couple bike shops worth checking out in the city. This account of a guy's research and decision making process when buying a new bike sounds not unlike what someone here would go through if they hadn't bought a bike in a while. At least one of the shops mentioned has a website, and appears to have been the first Trek dealer in Bengaluru, if not all of India.
  • That same bike shop seems to be an active participant in the BBCh (Bangalore [sic] Bicycle Championship), a series of competitive rides, both on and off road. The 2012 season is underway, and the second race was held last weekend. More details here. 

    At the first race of the BBCh 2012 season
  • Now, I'm no fan of heat, so the idea of a hot, often dusty city is not necessarily appealing to me. The bicycle touring journal website Crazy Guy on a Bike has more journals including Bangalore (or Bengaluru) than I have time to go through, but one journal by two Canadians who cycled 2000 km around India with Bengaluru as their start end end point had this insight in their journal: "It's amazing how perspective changes with time; when we first arrived, we thought Bangalore was a huge, dirty, unpleasant city, but upon our return we found it to be a huge, dirty, and pleasant city!"
On that intriguing, and I suppose complimentary, note about Bengaluru, we'll end our virtual sojourn of a place far, far away. Hope you enjoyed it, Keep your eyes peeled for more posts in this series as time goes on.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Urgent: I-81 Exit 150 Public Comment — Affects US Bike Route 76

***Repost of a message on the Virginia Bicycling Federation blog.***

Please submit a comment and help support bicycle accomodations in this project as is required by official VDOT policy. Bike Route 76 was established in for the 1976 US bicentennial and runs all the way to the west coast.

via Virginia Bicycling Federation by admin on 3/13/12

The existing I-81 Exit 150 redesign project at Cloverdale does not include bicycle accommodations. This is a critical interchange for cyclists. The project includes portions of U.S Route 11 which is heavily used by local cyclists as well as by cyclists on U.S. Bike Route 76 to access Roanoke and other accommodations. The only opportunity we have to request that the project include bicycle accommodations is for you to comment by e-mail BEFORE MIDNIGHT THIS COMING SUNDAY, MARCH 18, which is when the public comment period closes. Comments must be submitted to and must include the subject heading "Interstate 150 Exit 150 Public Hearing Comment". You may use the following suggested comment if you wish:
Route 11 is heavily used by bicyclists traveling between Roanoke and Botetourt county and is also used by bicyclists traveling on US Bike Route 76 to access Roanoke and other accommodations. The present design does not provide any accommodation for bicyclists despite VDOT's policy that it should.

I request that representatives from VDOT meet with the Bicycle Advisory Committee of the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission, and other stakeholders, to discuss how bicycle accommodations may be included in the I-81 Exit 150 project.
Thanks to Dave Harrison of the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club for this alert.

Monday, March 12, 2012


No, not the store. The Great Allegheny Passage, a rails to trails project that connects Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland. So if you're looking for a review of a pair of khakis and a polo shirt, this is the wrong blog post for you.

Anyway, there was a good write up about it in the Washington Post travel section about it this weekend which I read over my lunch break at work today. The reviewer did credit card touring, staying in hotels and B&Bs. While a bed and climate controlled environment would be nice every once in a while on a long tour, I'm more interested in bringing my tent with me and camping out most of the time.  Fortunately, there are lots of opportunities for camping along the GAP, too.

(From the Washington Post slide show associated with the article linked to above)

Now the nice thing about the GAP, of course, is that it connects with the C&O Canal Towpath in Cumberland, which runs all the way to Georgetown and the heart of Washington, DC. The other nice thing, as the article points out, is that all the climbs and descents are at railroad grades, meaning generally 2% or less. That makes the trip up and over the Appalachians a lot easier.

I went on an overnight bike trip on the C&O from  Alexandria, VA to around Harpers Ferry last summer. I stayed at the Huckleberry Hill hiker-biker campsite, right about milepost 63 of the C&O. That put me about 1/5 of the way to Pittsburgh, which is about 320 miles of trail riding from  DC. I hope one day to do the whole ride from Pittsburgh to DC or vice-versa. Allowing time for a little sightseeing along the way, I think that would make a very nice week of riding and camping, don't you?