Biking to work this year can be summed by saying that I’ve had to overcome several bits of adversity to keep going. Nothing huge, but enough to be a drag on my enthusiasm.
Last year I had planned to reach 40 rides for the season for the first time. I bike in twice a week (rarely more, since I often need to drive somewhere after work), and with 7 months in the season (between Daylight Savings Time changes – I prefer not to bike home in the dark) that gives me about 30 weeks, so in theory I could get as many as 60 rides in without adding extra days (minus time spent on vacation, at WWDC, etc.), but I think I’ve topped out at 35. Debbi suggested I aim for 50. But then all the business with my Mom came up, and I ended up at around 35 again.
This year I was back east in March during the DST change (“Spring Forward, Lose Sleep”), but I didn’t bike in until May because we were working on selling her house, and I wanted to make sure I could dash home and take care of anything that came up where I needed some specific records (it turned out that nothing did).
Along the way I’ve broken two spokes on my rear wheel, and I’m coming to accept that I need to get a new bike. I have a 2002 Bianchi Eros road bike (at least, that’s the year I bought it), and I think I just weigh too much for the bike. I bought a beefier rear wheel for it a couple of years ago, but I’ve continued to pop spokes (just less often), which is pretty annoying (even though I found a store nearby which is able to fix it within 48 hours reliably). So I think I need to get a bike which is built for someone of my weight (as with buying clothes, it’s better to buy for the body you have, not the body you want to have). So this winter I will probably look into getting some sort of hybrid bike. The plus is that I could take it off-road onto some of the dirt trails in Shoreline Park, which my road bike can’t really handle.
Then in August Debbi and I were doing an abdominal workout challenge, and I started having pain in my hips, which mostly went away when I stopped doing the sit-ups. Toward the end I also started having pain in my right knee, which may or may not be related (perhaps I was compensating for the hip pain in a way that stressed my knee). It gets sore when I apply downward power when pedaling – either going up hills or when starting moving. It’s not debilitating, and it doesn’t both me much when not biking (maybe a bit when climbing stairs), but it is worrisome, and the two weeks off for our September vacation didn’t let it heal fully. It felt a bit better this past week, but I have had to be careful around it.
So it’s been a bit of a frustrating summer for biking. I’m on pace to hit 40 rides by the end of the month, which will be a nice milestone; fortunately I had a day’s worth of cushion since I got sick a few weeks ago. I don’t think my knee would take a third day of riding in one week very well.
I like riding to work, but I’ll like it even more if I can get a more reliable bike for next year. Meanwhile, as sunset creeps earlier and earlier, I’m getting ready to switch to going to the gym over the winter, instead.
I rode my bike to work this morning, probably the last ride of the year since daylight savings time ends this weekend, so it will be dark well before I head home if I were to bike in, and I don’t like riding home in the dark. Plus, the rains are coming. I made it to 22 rides this year, which isn’t so bad considering buying the new house, moving, and our trip to Hawaii took a big chunk out of my riding time.
On the way in, only a couple of blocks from Subrata and Susan’s house, I got flagged down by a couple of women with a baby carriage. One of the women – with the carriage – was lost (the other was just another person who was trying to help her). Moreover, her English was not strong. She used my phone to call someone (after several tries to remember the right number), and after talking to her in another language handed the phone to me. Between the two of us, I was able to direct her to where we were. I think we were only a couple of blocks away from a street she knew. I sat with the woman while we waited for the woman she called to come get her.
When the younger woman arrived, she said the older woman said that I reminded her of her son. (She wasn’t able to express this in English.)
I’m still not sure what the relationship among them was: Mother-daughter? Mother-in-law-daughter-in-law? Was the older woman a nanny who was just taking the baby out for a walk? I didn’t pry.
But at least I was able to help her get back to where she was supposed to be.
This weekend I had a productive round of shopping for new biking gear:
- I bought a new helmet. It was really hard to find a large-size helmet; I kept finding Giro one-size-fits-all-helmets, which didn’t fit my head. I also wanted a blue helmet to match my bike, and a helmet with a visor, since a visor obviates the need for wearing sunglasses while riding (for me). I finally found a nice blue Bell Influx helmet at REI which fits great. I think the last helmet I bought cost me $90 or more; this one was $65.
- Also at REI I found a bike tire gauge. I’ve had people at bike stores tell me they don’t make those – “Why would you want one? Just check the pressure by feeling the tire” they’d say. When pumping a replaced tube with my hand pump I can’t really tell if I’ve overfilled the tire my hand, so I’m pretty happy to have found this tire gauge, which now lives in my seat pack along with my tube-changing equipment.
- I also picked up a couple of new tubes. Tubes are cheap, so it’s easier to replace the whole tube than try to patch the punctured one.
- Lastly, I bought a new water bottle, since the old one was getting a bit long in the tooth. I like the Polar Bottles.
I took the new gear out with me on my ride to work today. I was especially glad to have the new helmet, since my old Giro one was definitely, well, old. (I understand you should replace your helmet about every five years, for safety.) I liked the Giro, too, but I couldn’t find the one I wanted from them in searching for a replacement, so I’m happy with the Bell.
I got a late start on biking to work this year thanks to moving, but I’ve been going twice a week for the last month (often with my coworker Sean). I may not catch up to the number of rides I did last year, but I should have a fair number by the end of Daylight Savings Time.
My current schedule is to bike to work on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So Tuesday I went out to the bike to pump up my tires. I rotated the rear wheel to get the nozzle in the right place and…
“Hmm… that’s strange.”
There was a staple stuck in the tire, one prong jammed neatly into the tire. I pulled it out, and saw that the tire was flat. Was it flat before I pulled the staple out? I dunno, but even so I wasn’t going to bike to work with a staple in my tire and get a flat halfway in.
My thought process then went something like this:
- I could change the tube myself, but I’m not very good at it. It’d probably take me about 20 minutes to change it.
- Then I’d be getting into work pretty late (even by my lights), so I’d better drive.
- If I drive, should I then change the tube myself tonight, or shall I be lazy and take the wheel to the shop and get it fixed?
- I’m going to be lazy. Then I can have them check the tire to see if it’s still otherwise sound, too.
- Of course, if I never change flats myself, then I’m never going to get any better at it.
- Then again, I don’t really want to get so many flats that I get that much practice…
(I find changing the tube to be difficult mainly when trying to start getting the tire off, or finish putting it on; the tension is pretty strong, and I just don’t have the right technique or something, because I always stress my fingers at those points, and struggle with it until it finally pops out or pops back on. A pain in the ass, really.)
Two additional ironies: When I had my bike in to change a different flat a few weeks ago (due to the tire rupturing around the nozzle because I’d twisted the screw that holds the nozzle in place too far) he said my tires are pretty impenetrable. Apparently not completely impenetrable (maybe the staple just missed hitting the kevlar lining, or maybe biking on it drove it through). Second, we’d gone by the bike shop on Saturday to have the gears on Debbi’s bike adjusted; had I known about the staple then, I could have brought the wheel in at the same time.
Anyway, I took the wheel in after work on Tuesday and it was fixed in 15 minutes (so… maybe it would have taken me even longer to fix it myself?), and the wheel checked out. So I biked in again on Thursday and it help up like a champ. (And the wheel itself, which I had replaced last year with a beefier model because the spokes kept breaking, has done wonderfully this year, as well.)
bbum suggested that I get some slime-filled tubes for my bike. So I might try that. Although honestly I don’t get many flats these days, so it would just be an extra layer of insurance. But maybe.
Biking has otherwise been going well this year, aside from flat-tire mishaps and issues with getting ill or our late-season rains. I think I’ll easily eclipse my mileage from last year.
WWDC went well last week. Everything I’ve been working on is still under nondisclosure but it seemed to be well-received. I spent my usual shifts (plus a few hours) in the labs, which were low-key for me compared to usual (and my cow-orker who works in my same general area had the same feeling). My biggest success was figuring out that someone had somehow ended up with a corrupted install of his developer tools, and figuring out exactly what was broken (although not why). I did come into the office on Wednesday and did a quick turnaround of an issue my managers wanted me to look at.
I always sign up for the 9 am Friday morning lab shift, partly because it’s fun to get up with Deb and carpool up with her to get dropped off at Caltrain, and partly because it leaves me with the afternoon free to do stuff. I went to lunch with friends (some from work, some attendees) afterwards, and then took BART over to drop in on Borderlands Books.
I was grateful that the heat wave of the previous weekend broke before the conference started, since walking to and from Caltrain is no fun in 80+ degree heat. In the normal cooler weather, though, it’s quite nice. Plus I get to do some reading on the way there and back.
I was less grateful when a new heat wave moved in on Saturday, as it dampened my enthusiasm to do much stuff around the house. Though neither heat wave was as brutal as the ones we’ve had in the past. And we did get out to look for a new gas grill; I ended up buying a Weber Genesis E310 from OSH, which was having their periodic “we pay the sales tax” sale this weekend. Between the grill and various other things I picked up, I saved a bundle of money in sales tax. Now I just have to put the grill together…
Back to work this week, but it’s a pretty low key week as everyone recovers from WWDC. I biked in today, and had a flat tire when I came out of the gym after showering. I walked it over to the bike shop to get it repaired (I could have repaired it myself but decided I’d rather have a pro do it since they’re not far away), and learned that the nut which holds the nozzle in place can cause the tube to rupture if you tighten it too far, which I must have done. I also learned that the nut is not really needed, so I got rid of it. Success!
Lastly, we’re moving offices again on Friday (the second and final stage of our big office move, staged this way I think mainly because our building has gotten substantially remodeled along the way), so I’m packing today, and then taking the rest of the week off to catch up on some of that stuff at home. And then I’ll have another new environment to get used to!
It took me almost two weeks after daylight savings time started, but I got back on the bike today and rode to and from work. It was about as hard as I expected, but not too bad. My legs were definitely wobbly during the morning, and around 3:30 my body decided it was naptime. Once I got home I was quite hungry, and afterwards I felt pretty well zonked. I’ll sleep well tonight!
Amusing little aside: On my ride in I often stop off at some friends’ house. Usually I just stop in front, have some water, and push on, though sometimes I see one of them and say hi. This morning I turned into their neighborhood behind a car that looked just like theirs – not too surprising since they have a common make, model and color. But it turned onto a different street. When I got to their house, their garage was open, and I noticed that their license plate was exactly the same as the other car’s to the fifth digit (of seven). What are the odds?
I’ve got a busy couple of weeks lined up, with lots to do at work and at least at much to get through at home. So updates may be sparse. March and early April always seem to be this way, for some reason.
The broken-bike-seat saga (such as it was) ended happily: I went to the bike shop and bought a new set of screws for the seat.
The guy who helped me said that the screws break all the time, usually for the same reason mine did: Trying to over-tighten them. “That’s why the company charges $20 for them.” He was more scandalized than I was at the cost. I told him I’d had that first screw for 7 years, which works out to less than $3.00 a year, which ain’t bad.
They also suggested I put some grease on the screw before putting it on. “What kind of grease?” I asked. “Grease with a ‘G’,” they said. Hey, what do I know from grease? Turns out there are several different kinds of grease, at my local hardware store, anyway. I went for grease with a “cheap”, mainly because I don’t need a big tub-o-grease. (Insert snarky comment here.)
They also sold me a packet of goo to put on the shaft of the bike seat, which increases friction and thus reduces slippage of the seat, which is the problem I was having which led me to over-tighten the screw in the first place. So I tried it out. It seemed to help, from my first experience. (They also cautioned me not to use it on the screws, which amused me: Yeah, don’t use the friction-enhancing goo as a lubricant. Got it.)
Anyway, all that taken care of, I biked in to work again today. Made good time, too!
It drives me nuts – probably a lot more than it should – when stuff breaks. Well, sometimes I just take a “it happens” attitude, but if it’s something I really need to fix, then I resent needing to spend the time to fix or replace it. And when several things break in succession, well, that’s obviously worse.
A couple of weeks ago I had the classic moment when I realized I’d left my pedometer in my shorts – which were currently in the washing machine. Once it dried out it seemed to be working again, but in trying to get it all back together I lost one of the nuts which actually holds the battery compartment in place. I couldn’t figure out where it went (probably fell behind the bookcase), so I finally gave up and just ordered a new pedometer, as the old one was, well, getting pretty old anyway. On the bright side, the pedometer Debbi and I each use is down to $24 at Amazon.com.
Several months ago, the zipper on the bag I take everywhere with my laptop and books and such broke. Well, the bag has, like, 12 pockets, so it was only one zipper – but it was the one for the laptop pocket. And, the zipper itself is fine, it’s actually just the handle which snapped in half. The fix? Take some ribbon and tie it through the remainder of the handle, and voila! New handle! Well, new handle until the remainder of the old handle decides to just fall off one day, taking the ribbon with it, and probably turning into a cat toy. So now I need to figure out a new way to get the ribbon on there, without it slipping through the gap the old handle likely slipped through (which I probably widened in my failed attempt to replace the old handle with a handle taken from a discarded suitcase).
And most recently, today I was biking in to work, and during my water break decided to raise my seat again. It keeps slipping down from the most comfortable position, so I’ve been raising it about once a week, which involves loosening the screws which keep it in place, and then tightening them again. This time, metal fatigue took it toll and the screw snapped in half, so the seat wouldn’t stay in place. Fortunately (?) I’d stopped in front of my friends Susan & Subrata‘s house, so I sent Susan a text message, and 30 seconds later I hear her yell, “Come on in!” So she gave me a lift home and I showered and started my day over again.
I’ll have to go buy a new screw for the bike, and I wonder if I should buy a new seat as well, in the hopes that a new one won’t keep slipping down. On the other hand, given that I seem to have one major failure in my bike every year, maybe I should just buy a new bike.
The upside is that S&S’s son Ajay took his first steps over the weekend, and I got to play and laugh with him while Susan was getting ready to drive me home. He’s a cute little guy.
Anyway, now that I’ve got all this out of my system, I can work on getting stuff repaired.
All-in-all, quite a productive weekend.
After a quiet morning at home on Saturday, Debbi and I went for a bike ride through the park and down the bike trail, stopping in the park for lunch at the lakeside cafe, and going over the new pedestrian bridge they finished a month or so ago. We cooled down with some yoga exercises on the Wii.
Then we headed to Palo Alto where I bought myself an iPhone 3GS, upgrading from my original model. While this is a tad frivolous, it is a much bigger upgrade over my phone than the 3G was: Faster processors, better camera, more memory, built-in compass – all useful items. Especially the speed and the camera. I ordered a new holster, the newer edition of the one I’ve been using for my old phone: A Marware Sidewinder Deluxe. I like the hard shell and screen protection when I’m not using the phone, while giving me full access to the screen when I am using it. Hopefully it’ll be just as good as the earlier version.
We went to Cafe Borrone in the evening as usual, and on the way home got caught on a summer rainshower that hit the mid-peninsula – very unusual in these parts in July. We often get a little shower in August, and I’ll be curious to see whether it arrived a month early, or if this was a bonus shower. Either way, it was nice.
Today we had an even quieter morning at home, with Debbi making scones and then us sitting on the porch reading the paper with our scones and coffee, enjoying the cool weather. Then we hit the farmer’s market.
In the afternoon I tackled the project of installing a new faucet in the sink of Debbi’s bathroom. This was a pain in the ass, partly because I’d never replaced a faucet before, and partly because the old tubing for the cold water lost its seal when I was trying to fix it all up, and we had to go out and buy a new tube. But I finally got it hooked up, including the drain control, and it works without any leaks. In retrospect I guess it wasn’t too bad, but messing around under the sink is not at all convenient.
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned my latest physical ailment: My hips have been getting sore at odd times, usually for days on end, making it difficult to switch between sitting and standing. It started the week before we left on vacation, so less than a month ago. For some reason working under the sink aggravated them badly, and I’ve been hobbling around for the rest of the afternoon. It’s really frustrating, especially since the pinched nerve in my neck seems to be almost better (it only bothered me a little while biking yesterday). Doing a couple of yoga poses seems to help work out the soreness, fortunately, but it’s not a panacea.
Anyway, I wrapped up the day with our book discussion group, dinner at Su Hong, and a few more yoga poses with the Wii. Tomorrow I plan to bike in to work, just in time for temperatures around here to clear 90. Ugh!
But I’m happy with what I got done this weekend. Now I need to go relax for the rest of the evening.
After a trial ride over the weekend, I got back on the bike today and rode into work. The newest reach of the Stevens Creek Trail opened a few weeks ago, and it makes my ride when I choose to take the trail a lot easier, since I can avoid one of the more complicated intersections on the route. Very nice! (I have two other routes I take to work, too, but it’s nice to ride on the trail when it’s convenient. Except for going over the bridge over Central Expressway whose wood-slats are slowly eroding and splintering, but that’s another issue.)
One unusual site was biking past a cul-de-sac road and seeing a large (German Shepherd-sized) dog lying on its back in the middle of the cul-de-sac. I hope it was just lying in the sun and rubbing its back on the pavement, and not that something bad had happened to it, but stopping to investigate didn’t seem advised.
As usual for the first ride of the year, my legs are wobbly and I’ve been ravenously hungry (and trying to resist doing things like gobbling down chocolate-dipped croissants). It’ll take a couple of weeks for my body to adjust to the shock of all this sudden exercise.
Feels good to get out again, though.