Winds of March.. an awesome old song by Journey, and a massive annoyance on a bike.
I rode in today in a stiff 15-20mph west wind that didn’t let up for a single second. The good news is, although I wouldn’t call myself 100%, I wasn’t nearly as draggy as yesterday, and didn’t struggle as much against the wind. It helped that it wasn’t raining. The weather forecast calls for the winds to diminish today, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
I wrapped up March with 15 commutes to work by bike and 1 by car. We’ll see what April has in store.
It’s been a dreary couple of days here in B’more, though there’s hope of some improvement later today. I’ve been taking Benadryl the past couple of nights at bedtime, to help with a lingering post-nasal drip that tends to wake me up at night if I don’t drug it into submission. The Benadryl helps me get a good night’s sleep, but unfortunately it makes me incredibly draggy in the morning. That, combined with drizzle and thick fog, led me to skip riding yesterday. I regretted it later, of course, but it was probably the right call.
This morning, it was raining again, but visibility was better, so I rode. It turned out to be one of my toughest rides of the year. I’m not sure if it was the Benadryl after-effects, the 20mph headwind, or both, but I was really laboring to get up the hills during the second half of the ride. Hopefully my rides will improve with the weather for the second half of the week.
The good news is, the clip-on fenders I ordered for my road bike arrived on Friday, one day after I ordered them. I hope to try them out soon. I’ll post a write-up on them after I’ve taken them for a few bad-weather rides. I’m interested to see how they compare to full fenders. I tried full fenders with the road bike for awhile, but the bike just doesn’t have enough clearance for them, particularly under the brakes. They worked, but it took an hour of fiddling to get them adjusted correctly, and even then they would still occasionally rub the tires. The clip-ons shouldn’t have that problem.
Still battling the virus I came down with this past weekend, which has now moved into my throat. The good news is, it hasn’t kept me off the bike, though it is detracting somewhat from the overall excellence of the riding experience. I switched to the fixed-gear this morning because there’s a threat of rain later (NWS says “mainly after 5pm”, but I’ve heard that before) and I wanted fenders. It’s becoming clear that I’m going to need a set of fenders for my road bike if it’s ever going to see any regular use this spring. So, this morning I ordered a set of Planet Bike “SpeedEZ” clip-on fenders to use with the road bike. I’ll report back on them once I’ve tried them out, probably in a week or two, depending on how fast Amazon’s “super saver” shipping gets them to me. My hope is that they’ll be easy to put on and take off without a lot of fiddling.
Awhile back, I bought a Topeak “Beam Rack” seat post rack to use with my fixed-gear bike, which lacks rear eyelets for mounting a standard rack. I also bought an optional accessory that allows me to use it with panniers. This setup works really well, but it’s a bit of a pain moving the panniers back and forth between my two bikes (my other bike has a standard rack). Then I had an idea: why not take the standard rack off my other bike, and just use the beam rack back on both bikes? The rack has a quick release, so I can move it from one bike to the other easily without tools, and this way I can just leave the panniers attached to the rack all the time. Today I tried it out, and it seems like it’s going to work out fine. I’m always looking for ways to make it easier to switch bikes.
There’s one thing I don’t like about the beam rack. The quick release mechanism is on the large side, and it sits right at the base of the seat post where it enters the frame. In this position, my legs tend to brush it as I pedal. This is a little annoying at first, but eventually I get used to it and don’t really notice it. It seems like an acceptable price to pay for a convenient quick-release rack.
The weather is definitely warming up, although it’s very windy, which is typical of March around here. We’re getting close to that time of year where I have to dress warmly in the morning, but can wear shorts in the afternoon. As such, I’ve ditched the long pants and am now riding with shorts and leg warmers. Last week’s temperatures in the 70s erased all remnants of last month’s snowstorms. I’m seeing a lot more riders out, particularly in the afternoon.
Back on the bike this morning after an extremely unhealthy, but fun, weekend in Buffalo watching NCAA tournament games. I brought home a sore throat and slightly runny nose, and was dragging a bit this morning. I have a standing rule: if I’m too sick to bike to work, I stay home. Faced with a choice of taking a sick day or getting on the bike, and itching to start working off some of the past weekend’s excesses, I decided I was fit enough to ride. I took an 11.5 mile route in, including a loop through Patapsco State Park. It was a pretty good ride, other than a slight lack of energy and the usual sweaty-clammy feeling that accompanies a low grade virus. Hopefully whatever I have won’t develop into anything worse.
Inside the park, the Grist Mill Trail was in better shape than it was a week ago after flooding out. There was still some mud on the trail, as well as some low hanging branches and a lot of rocks in one spot. Not too road-bike friendly, but I was able to get through it OK. I haven’t checked out the portion of the trail between the swinging bridge and Ilchester Rd, but will likely do that later this week.
No work for me this week, but I took advantage of the good weather and rode yesterday and today. Yesterday I took the fixed-gear out for a 30 mile ride around the BWI trail and Patapsco State Park. It was the longest ride I’ve taken in quite a while.. my maximum one-way commute is around 18 miles, and I don’t regularly take longer weekend rides. The Grist Mill Trail was about as washed-out and muddy as I’ve ever seen it after the drenching we got on Saturday. It was bad enough that I wouldn’t have ridden it had I known its condition. But, I survived.
Today I had a few things to pick up at the office, and I had a 4-year-old in tow, so I did the logical thing, put him in the kiddie trailer, and rode to the office and back with him, plus a stop at the playground. It was great fun for all involved. Total round trip was around 16 miles, and it was probably twice the work it would be sans trailer and child. Lots of other folks out on bikes today.. must be getting close to Spring or something 🙂
It’s March, which means it must be raining. The big rain isn’t supposed to hit till overnight, so this morning, despite a steady drizzle, I was able to squeeze in one last ride before Spring Break. I wore rain gear over a long sleeve jersey and cycling pants. At long last, I was able to switch back to clipless pedals. The timing was perfect.. last night’s rain washed the last of the snow off the park access road, and I only had to dismount to get past the gate. And neoprene shoe covers do a much better job keeping my feet dry in rain than hiking boots. I highly recommend the Performance brand shoe covers. Get the ones with the rubber soles, and order two sizes larger than your normal shoe size. I wear size 11 cycling shoes, and the size 13 shoe covers fit perfectly.
This is my last day in the office, and therefore my last bike commute, until Tuesday, March 23. If the weather cooperates, I hope to get a couple of rides in next week, though.
What a difference a month makes. Today marked my 8th ride of March, eclipsing my total for the entire month of February. Amazing how quickly the conditions improve as Spring approaches. Now if we could just get rid of the pesky snow on the park access road, I could finally ditch the hiking boots and go back to clipless.
I managed to get two rides in on the road bike this week before switching back to the fixed-gear today. Later this month I’m going to pick up a set of clip-on fenders for the road bike, so I can ride it in slightly wetter conditions. Then for the summer, I may take the fenders off the fixed-gear and use the road bike with the clip-ons for days when storms are forecast. In these parts, there’s really no need for full fenders during the summer.. they just rattle and get in the way. But this time of year, they’re indispensable.
Today is our fifth nice day in a row, a truly rare occurrence this time of year. Not to fear, though, as we’re expecting a return to our usual crappy weather later this week. I took the road bike out, with the initial intention of doing 18 miles through Oella and Catonsville, but I was dragging this morning, so I shortened the ride to 15 miles and went through Patapsco instead. No snow anywhere, although the access road still looks snowy. It’s getting tempting to bring a shovel with me and clear a path. Otherwise I’m going to be riding with hiking boots at least into April.
A week or so ago, I replaced the derailleur pulleys on the road bike, in hopes that it would stop an incessant squeak when I shift. This was my first ride with the new pulleys, and no squeak so far, but I’m not calling it fixed until I’ve been squeak-free for a few hundred miles. The old pulleys didn’t look terribly worn in comparison to the new ones, so I’m wondering if lubrication has something to do with this. I made sure to grease the bushings when I put the new pulleys in. We’ll see I guess. The front derailleur is going to be the next challenge.. seems like no matter how I set the cable, it’s either too tight (trouble shifting onto smaller chainrings) or too loose (chain rubs derailleur cage when the rear is shifted onto a small cog). Maybe it’s bent?
Assuming I ride home today, I’ll have my first hundred-mile week of 2010 this week. As promised yesterday, I rode out to Ilchester Rd and into the park on the Grist Mill Trail. The trail was very twiggy, but otherwise in good shape except for a single really small snow-covered patch. I expect that’ll melt down over the weekend.
It’s supposed to stay dry through Monday, so my plan is to dust off the road bike for Monday’s ride. The only question is whether I want to ride with clipless pedals, or put on the platforms with Power Grips which I’ve been riding for the past month. It all depends on how much more I think the River Rd entrance will melt down over the weekend. I’ll see how it is on the ride home today.