We’ve got ourselves some good old-fashioned Mid-Atlantic summer weather this week. My morning ride was a nice, sweaty, humid 81°. High of 89 later today, with (you guessed it) thunderstorms predicted for late afternoon and evening. I tend to take shorter rides in this kind of weather, and today was no exception.
Yesterday afternoon I flipped the odometer on my road bike over to 6000 miles. I was at the corner of Poplar Ave and Shelbourne Rd, just leaving the UMBC campus. I also remember 5000, which I hit on September 29, 2009, on the Grist Mill Trail in Patapsco State Park. 4000 was on June 2, 2009. Now that I have 2 commuter bikes, I’m spreading the mileage out between them a bit more.
It’s been a good week for wildlife sightings. Tuesday I saw a bird on the river that looked like a heron or egret. It’s kind of rare to see these types of sea birds in our area. Wednesday I surprised a fox on South St in Relay, just after exiting the park. Today I rescued a box turtle from the park access road. And of course, there’s also been the usual bevy of unfriendly Canada geese.
Today marked my last ride of May. Total tally: 18 commutes by bike, 0 by car. My kind of month!
I didn’t get out of the house until 9:15 this morning, but fulfilled my obligation to ride to work on Bike-to-Work Day. By the time I left, it was around 70 degrees out. I rode down Lawyers Hill Rd, through the park, out River Rd to Frederick Rd, up Oella Ave, up the #9 Trolley Trail, then through Catonsville to UMBC. In spite of the late hour, I saw 7 or 8 other riders, and at least a couple of them looked like they might be commuting. Good times.
Next year I’d like to try to make it to one of the BtWD rallies. The closest one to me is held at Columbia Mall. The next time I get out for a recreational ride, I’m going to try to plot a good bike route from home to the mall, so I can ride out there in 2011. It will be nice to feel more like I’m part of the event.
If the event continues to grow in popularity, maybe there’ll be some rallies closer to me in coming years. Ellicott City, Catonsville, Patapsco State Park, and BWI Business District all seem like they’d make good rally spots.
I think I’m going to start a petition to change Maryland’s official State Bird. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen a Baltimore Oriole, in the wild, in Maryland. Wouldn’t it be better to use a bird that is much more commonplace? I’m thinking that a more appropriate choice would be the Canada Goose, or perhaps the Bell Jet Ranger.
Speaking of geese, I ran into a particularly cantankerous gaggle in Patapsco State Park this morning, on my ride to work. They had a big group of goslings in tow, and the adults gave me a nice chorus of hisses as I rode by. I laughed, thinking, these guys are not unlike the average driver in Maryland! (Take it easy folks.. just kidding! Sort of.)
Unfriendly geese aside, the weather is definitely looking nice for the end of the week. The clouds are gone and the temperatures are warming up. I took Landing Rd out to Ilchester Rd today and then rode through the park. Tomorrow is Bike-to-Work Day, so I was thinking about riding out to Ellicott City and Catonsville, to see if I can catch up with some other riders heading to UMBC. It’s nice to finally shed the rain gear.
Enjoy the weather and don’t forget to ride in tomorrow.
So it’s national bike-to-work week. Bike-to-work week is intended to encourage first-time bike commuters, and unfortunately, the weather in Maryland this week has not helped the cause. I rode in a steady drizzle Monday morning, Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning. By Tuesday afternoon the rain had stopped, but it was still damp and chilly. This morning was a bit of an improvement. I actually saw someone else on a bike. The dreary weather is finally supposed to get out of here for Thursday, and for “Bike to Work Day” on Friday, so I hope to see a lot more riders towards the end of the week.
Riding in the rain can actually be fun, although it does require a bit of an investment in proper clothing and equipment. Here’s a list of stuff I consider essential for wet commutes.
- Fenders. An absolute must. They keep 90% of the mud and slop off the bike and the rider. Full-coverage fenders are best for really wet conditions. Clip-on fenders are OK in a pinch, but avoid deep puddles and expect the bike to get dirtier.
- Lights. I use my headlights and rear flashers for visibility whenever it’s rainy or overcast out.
- Rain pants. Keeps legs dry. Even with full-coverage fenders, I find that I still get mud on my legs without rain pants.
- Hi-visibility vest or jacket. It’s important to stay visible in these conditions.
- Rain jacket. You’ll certainly want one if it’s chilly, or during a heavy downpour. But if it’s over 70 degrees out, you might want to skip it, as you’ll get just as wet sweating underneath it as you would from the rain. Mine has a hood that I sometimes put up underneath my helmet. There are also covers you can get that fit over the top of a helmet to keep rain out. I’ve not tried one of these, but may at some point.
- Shoe covers. These keep your feet dry. Very important if it’s cold. I use the Performance brand neoprene covers with rubber soles. These work best in conjunction with rain pants. The pants cuff should go over top the shoe cover to keep water out. Without this, water will get inside and your feet will get wet.
- Waterproof gloves. I haven’t yet invested in these, but would like to find a good pair that is breathable and sheds water effectively.
Anyone can ride in the rain, but as you can see, it takes some planning to actually ride comfortably and safely in the rain. That’s why most of the people who do it are die-hards. It took me about 2 years to accumulate enough gear where I felt properly equipped to ride in the rain. It’s really something you have to ease into.
This week’s weather was nice through Tuesday morning, then the rest of the week was damp, overcast, and alternated between cold/clammy and warm/muggy. There were a couple more-or-less rain free days, but it still seemed like a week that called for full fenders. So I rode my fixed-gear every day this week. Monday I rode out to New Cut Rd and through Ellicott City. Tuesday I did Bonnie Branch Rd through Elkridge. Thursday I rode through the park, then up Thistle Rd (which is no longer closed, but the detour signs are still in place, covered with plastic). Wednesday and Friday I just did a loop through Patapsco and headed in through Halethorpe.
I should know better than to jinx myself. A week or so ago I blew out the front tire on my road bike, and wrote about how rare it was to have a flat on the front tire. Well, this week I got another one, on the other bike. The tire blew out on Shelbourne Rd. just outside the UMBC campus. Big, nasty chunk of broken glass that left a large gash in the tire. Rather than fixing it on the road, I just walked the rest of the way to my office. Turns out I wasn’t properly equipped to do an on-road fix with this bike anyhow – the hubs use 15mm axle nuts, and the wrench on my multi-tool is a bit too wimpy to deal with the torque. I was able to scrounge up a socket wrench at work and use that. It might be worthwhile to invest in a fixed-gear multi-tool to carry with this bike, like the “Trixie” by Pedro’s.
Sun is coming out as I type. Bring on the storms this afternoon..
I’ve gone through my entire adult life so far in one of two conditions where physical exercise is concerned: I’m either in a “groove,” or a “rut.” A “groove” is a period of time where I’m exercising regularly, and generally feel “fit.” Conversely, a “rut” is a period of time where I’m slacking off, skipping workouts, etc., and just generally feel “unfit.” When I first started commuting by bike on a serious, regular basis, I entered an extended “groove” period. I spent most of 2008 and 2009 in one big, happy exercise groove. Now, it’s 2010, and for some reason, in spite of still biking 80-odd miles per week, I feel like I’m in a “rut.” I didn’t think this would be possible. Maybe I’ve gotten to the point where bike commuting has become so ingrained in my psyche, that I no longer consider it a form of exercise. Or more likely, it could also be that I’ve reached a fitness “plateau,” and my overall fitness is no longer increasing as a result of my riding, so I feel like I should be doing more. Not quite sure what to make of this, but I do think I need to re-introduce some cross-training, such as weight training and jogging, back into my regular routine. The issue with those, of course, is finding the time and motivation. The beauty of bike commuting is how well it dovetails with my daily schedule. Everything else needs to be “fit in” somehow, which makes it less likely that I’ll keep it up. Hopefully at some point I’ll figure it all out.
It’s official: Spring Allergy Season has arrived in the Mid-Atlantic. I used to be mostly unaffected until early June when the grass pollen starts ramping up. But now the tree pollen seems to be getting to me earlier in May. During peak pollen season, the 24-hour Claritin I take doesn’t always do the trick. When that happens, I call in the big guns and break out the Benadryl. I took some last night, and true to form, it killed the hay fever, put me to sleep, and turned me into a walking zombie the following morning. The good news is, Benadryl has a relatively short (4 to 6 hour) half-life, so once I shake off the waking sluggishness, it doesn’t affect me much for the rest of the day. I’ve biked to work several mornings after taking Benadryl the previous night at bedtime, and I’ve never noticed any drop-off in energy, but I must admit that my first urge on those mornings was to get back in bed and sleep for the rest of the day. So it’s important to fight that urge and get moving.
Today my plan was to ride down Lawyers Hill Rd into the park, then through Oella and Catonsville. But I was stymied near the beginning of the ride by that rarest of rarities, a flat front tire. Flats on the front tire are so rare that this is the first one I can recall getting, ever. I put air in the tire right before the ride, and the tire blew out about 2 miles into the ride. There was no “bang” or “pop”.. at first there was a rubbing noise that sounded like something caught in the front fender, then that stopped, then I noticed the bike was riding rough, and saw that the tire was flat. I swapped out the tube, checked the tire for foreign objects (there were none that I could see) and took a shorter route the rest of the way to avoid being late to work. After remounting the front wheel, I saw that the front fender was out of alignment. The flat tire must have knocked it askew, which would account for the initial rubbing noise.
This could have been worse. The tire blew out on the park access road, where there is no traffic. It was a comfy 70 degrees out, and plenty of nice shade to fix the tire. Can’t complain too much. I’ll do a post-mortem on the tube this evening. This also gives me motivation to rotate the tires on this bike. The front tire is an old Vredestein Fortezza SE that I put on in Fall 2008, and is well past its prime. I’ll take the Continental that’s currently on the back and move that to the front, and I have a brand-new Continental that I’ll put on the back.
Just when the rides were getting boring, Mother Nature throws a curve ball. We had showers overnight, and a brief torrential downpour around an hour before my ride. Ordinarily it would be a no-brainer to wear full rain gear, but it was 70° out and insanely humid. Good thing the sun wasn’t out, or it would have been really oppressive. By the time I left for work, it was down to a weak drizzle, with really wet roads. I ended up wearing rain pants and neoprene shoe covers over shorts, and a short sleeve shirt with a sleeveless reflective (non-waterproof) vest. In these conditions, rain pants and shoe covers are invaluable for keeping dirty road spray off my legs and feet, but a rain jacket provides diminishing returns, because there’s a certain point where I get wetter from sweating underneath the jacket than I would from the rain. All in all, I’d say I made the right call on clothes.