Spring Routine

One of the things that makes winter riding so much fun, is the daily challenge of figuring out what to wear, what equipment to ride with, what gear and clothing to pack, etc.  When the weather warms up, the daily commute becomes much more routine, and dare I say, repetitive.  It’s been hard to find anything noteworthy to write about my recent rides.  The mornings are still cool, and my typical morning garb recently has been: long sleeve jersey, jacket, shorts, leg warmers, and toe covers.  On warmer mornings, I’ll skip the toe covers and maybe zip the sleeves off my jacket.  Then in the afternoons, I’ll ditch the leg warmers, jacket, and toe covers, and switch to a short sleeve top if it’s warm enough.  In a few weeks, it’ll be warm enough that I’ll just ride with shorts and short sleeves all the time.  That, of course, is the beauty of summer rides – dressing for them is quick and brainless.


The weather forecast was calling for a chance of rain late today, so I took my road bike with clip-on fenders this morning.  What I wasn’t expecting, was a sudden cloudburst about 10 minutes into my ride.  It wasn’t much rain, but it was enough to wet the roads and make the rest of my ride a sloppy mess.  I was initially planning to take a longer ride, but I ended up shortening it because of the road conditions.  That’s April for you.

These were the exact type of conditions that prompted me to buy the clip-on fenders.  I bought them mainly for use in the summer, to ride on wet roads after storms.  And they’re about what I expected.  The coverage is nowhere near as good as full fenders, but they keep me from getting muddy, and they keep most of the slop off the rear derailleur and other harder-to-clean areas on the bike.  Most of the mess is concentrated on the back of the seat tube and the seat stays, which are easy to wipe off after a ride.  I’d say the only thing the fenders lack is a front mud flap, to keep spray off my feet and ankles.  I may try to fabricate one myself; we’ll see.


No sooner do I brag about a “perfect April,” when the dream is crushed.  Had a late-afternoon emergency at work, coupled with a hard deadline of 5:30 to get home, so I had to call for a ride.  Then the next day, I had to take the car so I could retrieve my bike.  So not only is April now tarnished, now my ride log is saddled with a one-way ride, so I’ll have to go around saying “I rode to work 154½ times in 2010.”  That’s the last time I’ll make the mistake of blogging about a perfect month until after the fact.

Took the road bike this morning, and rode through Catonsville for the first time in over a week.  It looks like Thistle Rd. is going to be closed for awhile.  There are semi-permanent-looking “road closed” and “Thistle Rd. detour” signs all over the general vicinity of Frederick, River and Ilchester Rds.  Hopefully whatever they’re doing to it will involve resurfacing.  After several years of cycling through eastern Howard and western Baltimore counties, it’s been my observation that the back roads in Howard are consistently in better shape.  Howard’s not perfect (Bonnie Branch road is a bit rough in spots) but some of the roads in Catonsville are like minefields.  On the other hand, Baltimore County’s busier roads seem more bike-friendly than Howard’s — Frederick Rd through Oella is a great ride, while Montgomery Rd through Elkridge feels like a suicide mission.

Enough rambling for one day.  The weather looks nice for the ride home this afternoon…

Tick tick tick

I biked to work every day last week, keeping my perfect April alive.  Hopefully I can keep it going.  Been feeling kind of loopy-headed, and lethargic, the past few days, although it seems better today.  Not sure if it’s seasonal allergies, my BP meds, or a combination of both.  I do remember having the same problem last April, so I suspect allergies are at least partially involved.

Got a new “bike noise” bothering me, this time with my fixed-gear bike.  When I stand up and pedal, I get this annoying ticking noise with every third pedal stroke.  It only happens when I’m out of the seat.  When I sit down, there’s no noise.  Doesn’t matter how I pedal or how fast I’m going; if I’m out of the seat, it ticks every third pedal stroke, like clockwork.  If I bounce on the pedals a little bit, sometimes I can get it to make extra ticking sounds.  It sounds kind of like something brushing the spokes, but I don’t think that’s it.  So I’m stripping stuff off the bike little by little to see if I can figure out what it is.  Took the fenders off over the weekend..  didn’t help.  I guess I’ll try my rack and panniers next, although I don’t have high hopes that’ll help either.  Hopefully I can get to the bottom of this sooner or later.

Seven Hills Lite

After hitting College Ave. yesterday, I rode on Landing Rd. today, which is sort of a scaled-down version.  Instead of seven steep hills, Landing Rd. has five somewhat less steep hills, and ends with a steep climb.  I figured I’d get my hill riding out of the way before I switch to the fixed-gear bike tomorrow, as neither of these two roads is much fun with only one gear.  While Landing Rd. is close to home, and provides a nice, direct route to the Ilchester Rd. entrance to Patapsco State Park, I still don’t ride it too often, because I’m usually not warmed up enough to want to tackle the hills.  For this and other reasons, I end up riding it more often in the summer than any other time of year.

This morning, I was able to ride in with summer clothes for the first time in 2010.  I’ve already taken several afternoon rides like this, but this will be the first day I can wear the same clothes for both the morning and afternoon rides.  Tomorrow looks to be a transitional weather day, with storms in the forecast as we revert back to seasonal temperatures on Friday.  Then it’ll be back to long sleeves and leg warmers.

Summer Preview

We’re having a summer weather preview this week, complete with hot afternoons and overnight showers.  We had a line of rain come through just before dawn, which gave me an opportunity to really put my new clip-on fenders through their paces.  Except for a bit of spray on my shoes and ankles, the fenders do a good job keeping me dry.  The real test is going to be when I go to wipe down my bike later.  To really be worthwhile, the fenders need to keep the gunk off my drivetrain so that the bike is easy to clean off.  Stay tuned.

Today I rode into Ellicott City via the infamous College Ave., which runs between Bonnie Branch Rd and St. Paul St.  College Ave. is known for its seven steep hills as well as numerous ghost stories and old wives’ tales. I don’t ride College Ave. all that often because the first hill is a total killer.  Today I managed to slog up it without dropping to the granny gear, but it wasn’t fun.  Once you’re up the initial hill, though, the remaining 6 aren’t that bad.  It’s just a matter of building up enough speed on the downhill parts to carry the bike most of the way up the next hill.  I came close to 40mph on a couple stretches.  Once I was in Ellicott City, I took the same route as yesterday, doubling back to Patapsco State Park via River Rd. and then through Relay and Halethorpe.  For some reason I thought this was going to be a shorter ride than yesterday, but it’s actually about a mile longer, clocking in at just under 19 miles.

I’ll probably keep riding the road bike for one more day, then switch to the fixed gear for the end of the week.  By then the temperatures should be returning to early-April seasonal norms, which will be nice, although I’m enjoying not having to bundle up in the mornings.

Faster with Fenders?

Today I took my first ride with Planet Bike “SpeedEZ” clip-on fenders.  It took me about 1/2 hour to put them on for the first time, and most of that was spent adjusting the struts.  Now that the struts are properly adjusted, it should be pretty quick to put them on and take them off.

The fenders didn’t affect my ride much.  I hardly knew they were there.  There was maybe a slight rattle when I hit a bump or rode over some rough pavement, but they’re much quieter than the full fenders I used to have on this bike.  The roads were pretty dry, but I was able to test the fenders out on River Rd, where there’s still a lot of lingering runoff and standing water.  The fenders kept me clean, as well as my downtube, but short fenders obviously aren’t going to be as effective as full fenders.  There was more spray on my seat tube and also on the fork crown and brakes.  I expected this, and I’m hoping it’ll be an acceptable price to pay for the convenience of clip-on fenders.  My intent is to use these as “warm weather” fenders.  During the summer, I rarely feel a need to use full fenders, but it’s nice to have something to ride on wet roads after storms and the like.  I’ll post a long-term update after I’ve ridden for a few months with these.

The really cool thing about these fenders is that they seem to make me faster.  I averaged 17.1 mph riding to work today, which may not be fast for some, but it’s fast for me.  It could just have been the beautiful weather, dry roads, and relatively flat route, but I’m giving credit to the fenders.

Spring Break (from traffic)

This week is Spring Break for Baltimore County schools, and next week is Howard County’s Spring Break.  Spring Break always means less traffic in the morning, so I’m planning my rides accordingly.  This week I’m doing some rides through Catonsville, and next week I’ll extend my rides on the Howard County side, maybe riding out to New Cut Rd and going through Ellicott City.  It’s a nice preview of Summer Vacation and its blissful lack of morning traffic.

April is one of those awkward months, like October, where 30-degree swings in daytime temperature are not uncommon.  Today figures to be one of those days.  When I left this morning it was 45 out, and the predicted high for the day is 75.  This callls for warm clothes in the morning and cool clothes in the afternoon.  I like to wear shorts, leg warmers, a long sleeve jersey and a windbreaker early.  I pack a short sleeve jersey for later, then stash the leg warmers, long sleeve jersey and jacket for the afternoon ride.  Just need to make sure to leave enough room to stow the extra clothes on the bike.