Road Bike

Took the road bike this morning.  Since I took the fenders off this bike, I’ve been trying to only take it out on dry, sunny days, which are hard to come by around here this time of year.  With cloudy skies and a “chance of sprinkles,” today’s weather isn’t what I’d call ideal for taking the road bike out.  But after several consecutive days on the fixie, mashing up hills and spinning at 160rpm downhill, my legs needed a breather.

I used to ride this bike with a rack trunk and a single side pannier, but lately I’ve taken a liking to riding with 2 side panniers and no trunk.  That way I can mount two blinkers on the back, one on the seat post and another on the left pannier.  The trunk made it impossible to use a seat post blinker, and my rack doesn’t have a reflector mount that I can use.  Getting rid of the trunk was the easiest solution short of buying a new rack.

Still got the annoying rear derailleur squeak.  I am really hoping that new pulleys will get rid of this.  Stay tuned.

Back to normal

After Monday’s wild weather, I’ve had a couple days of uneventful, almost boring rides to and from work.  The weather has been in the 30s and 40s for the most part during my rides, although today it was a bit chillier at 27.  I’ve stuck with the fixed-gear all week because the roads are still a little wet in spots, but if things stay dry today and overnight, I may switch to the road bike for tomorrow and Friday.  Friday’s ride depends on the timing of an approaching nor’easter.  Right now it looks like the storm is going to hold off until Friday night, which means I’ll be riding Friday.  But as is always the case with these coastal storms, anything could change between now and then.

Weird weather

OK, so I wimped out Friday and took the car to work on a day when the weather ended up pretty good.  History has shown that when I wimp out on a ride, 9 times out of 10 I end up regretting it, and that knowledge helped get me on the bike this morning, on a day when I came perilously close to wimping out again.  The weather this morning was weird.  No better word for it.  Almost 60°, with winds from the south gusting to 40mph.  Lots of rain, especially to our north and south.  Baltimore area got plenty too, but it wasn’t raining during my ride, just overcast and damp.  Lawyers Hill was blocked by a downed tree which had also taken out some power lines.  This would have been a problem had I been driving, but I was able to lift the bike over it.  I took a loop through the park, which was debris-strewn, but otherwise passable.  The drainage area on Glen Artney Rd (near the Grist Mill trailhead) was a raging torrent.  No way I could cross on the bike.  Fortunately, there’s a foot bridge nearby that provides a detour over it, so I didn’t have to double back.  Beyond the park, the ride was uneventful.  I wore full rain gear, but probably could have gotten by without the rain jacket (of course, the rain picked up shortly after I arrived at work).

This was my messiest ride yet on the fixed-gear.  I’m still not completely happy with how the rear fender is attached.  There’s nowhere to attach it at the bottom bracket, so I have it attached higher up on the seat tube, and it doesn’t extend down quite far enough in the front.  As a result, the bottom bracket area gets a lot of spray.  On the bright side, at least the bike is easier to clean than the road bike.  Single chainring, single cog, no derailleurs to worry about.

River bank repair

With bad weather threatening for tomorrow, I decided to do a longer ride this morning.  I rode out to New Cut Rd, then River Rd, then through the park.  Today, part of River Rd was down to one lane for construction work.  It looks like they’re doing some sort of restoration/shoring up of the river bank along the road, to try to alleviate future flooding.  Hopefully it’ll help.

Assuming the weather forecast holds up, I’ll either be not riding tomorrow, or taking the shortest ride in possible.  I packed rain gear along today, just in case the weather sours earlier than forecasted (not that that ever happens around here in winter).

Never a dull day..

You never know what kind of weather you’re going to get in winter, and this morning was a perfect example.  We got a “surprise” light frosting of snow/sleet/rain overnight.  No mention of it whatsoever in yesterday’s forecast.  By the time I had to leave, the system had moved out, but the roads were still wet, so I switched to the fixed-gear bike (with fenders) for today’s ride.

I rode through the park today, and River Rd was almost completely coated with a light, slightly crunchy glaze.  No traction problems though.  There were bike tire tracks on the Grist Mill Trail, but none on River Rd until I came through.

The second half of my ride was through Oella and Catonsville.  I exited the park at Ilchester Rd and took River Rd to Frederick Rd.  This was the first time I had ridden River Rd for a while, and there were obvious signs of past flooding (lots of mud on the sides), but no problems getting through on the bike.  In Catonsville, instead of taking Edmondson to Melvin Ave as I’ve always done in the past, I turned right on Smithwood, then left on Summit, then right on Beaumont.  This brought me to Frederick Rd at a stop sign instead of a light, and I didn’t have to wait as long to make my left onto Frederick.  The pavement on Summit and Beaumont is in bad shape in spots, but all in all I think this is a better route.


I dusted off the road bike for the start of the work week.  I hadn’t ridden it in two weeks.  Yesterday I tightened up my rear derailleur cable.  It took a full turn and a half of the barrel adjuster to get it to shift onto larger cogs without hesitating.  Anyhow, it paid off – no “surprise” shifts this morning.

I still get an annoying squeak when I shift sometimes.  It’s kind of like a bird chirping.  It typically doesn’t happen until about 15-20 minutes into a ride, then it pretty much squeaks the rest of the way every time I shift.  No amount of lubing the derailleur, cable, or chain seems to make it go away.  Research on the ‘net has revealed that it might be coming from the derailleur pulley(s).  Oiling them doesn’t seem to help, so I’m wondering if after 6000+ miles, they might just be wearing out.  A new set is under $10, so I may try replacing them and see if that helps.

Biked through Catonsville again this morning.  Typically, when I have to make a left onto Frederick Rd heading east, I’ve turned at the Melvin Ave light.  But lately that light has not been turning green for me.  It’s kind of hard to follow the rules of the road when the traffic lights will only turn green for cars.  There’s a ped signal there, but to use it I have to cross over to the wrong side of the road to get to the crosswalk.  Catonsville purports to be bike friendly, but it’s unclear to me whether I’m supposed to act like a vehicle or a pedestrian in these cases.  To avoid the issue, I think I’m just going to avoid the light and make the left turn at a street with a stop sign.  When I initially planned this route, I expected Frederick Rd to be bumper-to-bumper at this time of morning, but it’s really not that bad that I can’t make a left onto it at a stop sign (providing I can see OK in both directions, of course).


Stomach bug kept me off the bike (and home from work) on Friday.  I started coming down with it on Thursday afternoon, but was able to ride home, although it was a bit of a struggle coming up Lawyers Hill.  It was an unseasonably warm 50 degrees out, so I dressed down quite a bit compared to the morning ride.

Due to a very well-timed MLK holiday tomorrow, I have an extra day to recuperate and fully expect to be back on the bike Tuesday.  Based on the 5-day, looks like I might need the rain gear next week.

Morning Ride Notes

Took a 15 mile ride in today, and the roads/trails have improved enough that I was able to stay clipped in for the entire ride.  That doesn’t happen very often in January.  Weather conditions were almost identical to yesterday morning, except with a bit more of a breeze.  I switched back to clipless pedals with two layers of socks, and my feet still got a little cold, but I think the extra layer of socks kept them warm a little longer.  On the top I wore a long sleeve “Under Armour” shirt, PolarTec top and windbreaker.  This was still just a touch on the warm side.  I think I need something slightly lighter than the PolarTec to wear when it’s in the 20s, I’m just not sure what yet.  It might be as simple as just taking off the windbreaker.  The combination of windbreaker and PolarTec top seems better suited for temperatures in the ‘teens and lower.

More on toe clips

I switched footwear for the ride home today.  Instead of hiking boots, I wore an old pair of suede high-top lined shoes that I had lying around the office.  They fit in the toe clips a lot better than the boots, so the ride home was more comfortable.  They’re not weatherproof, so I wouldn’t want to wear them in deep snow or really wet conditions, but they worked fine in a pinch.

I forgot what a PITA it is to get into a toe clip with the bike moving.  It’s even harder on a fixed-gear with the pedals moving.  I’ll never complain about my Look pedals again.  They’re an absolute dream in comparison.  I’m hoping the Power Grips will be easier to use in this department.  I’ll report back when I get around to picking up a pair.

For the long term, I may want to consider getting some cycling specific boots too.  Shoelaces and bike chains are not always the best combination.

I may switch back to the clipless pedals for tomorrow’s ride..  other than River Rd, there’s not much snow left in the park, and it’s supposed to warm up into the 40s, which will melt more of it.

Toe clip verdict

Part of the fun of winter biking is experimenting with various combinations of clothing and equipment, to find out what works and what doesn’t.  No two rides are the same in winter.  Riding in the summer is boring by comparison.

Today’s experiment was riding the fixie with toe clips and hiking boots.  This was a mixed bag.  On the plus side, it was great having the boots to walk through the snowier sections in the park.  With boots, I’m more inclined to take the bike into the park in snowy weather, because I know that if I have to, I’ll be able to walk longer distances in the boots than if I were wearing cleats.  I also felt more confident riding through snowy and icy sections, even with 700x23c road tires.

The downside to this setup is that the boots don’t fit into the toe clips very well.  Even with the straps set at their loosest setting, I felt like I was pedaling on tiptoes, and I had the tendency to want to jam my toes as far forward as possible, which needless to say, was uncomfortable.  The straps kept my feet on the pedals at high cadences, but they didn’t hold the boots in very well on the upstroke, so I wasn’t able to pedal very efficiently.

So the verdict here is that I like riding with the boots, but I need a different pedal retention system.  I may try out a set of Power Grips straps.

ObClothingNotes:  NWS said it was 24 when I left and 30 when I arrived.  I wore 2 layers of socks under the boots.  Feet stayed warm.  Top: short sleeve, arm warmers, PolarTec, windbreaker.  This was a bit on the warm side.

ObRoadNotes: In the park, the Grist Mill Trail was clear except for a few icy spots.  River Rd was mostly snow covered, but rideable with caution.  Outside the park, roads were completely clear but salty.