Maryland Summer

Well, it took 6 months, but I finally picked up a ride on 2010.  Today marks my 16th ride of June, compared with 15 last June.  Looks like I’ll finish up June with 17, as I plan to ride tomorrow, and I’m off on Wednesday the 30th.  July is relatively low-hanging fruit too; I rode 14 times in July 2010.  We shall see how it goes.

It’s so humid out these days that I feel like I’m losing 10 pounds per ride.  Pretty much par for the course for Maryland in summer, but I do find myself pining for just one pleasant day once in awhile.  The sad thing is, this week it’s been much nicer than last week, and I’m sure someone living in a saner climate would still find it horrible.  Another hallmark of Maryland summer is the constant prediction of storms that never seem to materialize.  My last 6 rides, I’ve taken my single speed bike, which has fenders, because storms have been in the forecast all 6 days, and fenders come in handy when it rains.  Of course, so far we haven’t gotten a single drop.  Tomorrow the rain chances have finally dropped out of the forecast, so I’ll switch to my road bike.  Which means we’ll get a monsoon tomorrow afternoon.

Nearing the halfway point

Getting close to the end of June, and the midpoint of 2011.  I’m on pace to finish June up with 75 or 76 rides, which is around 10 fewer than the same time last year.  Most of those rides were lost in February and March, for which my crash on Feb 8 is partially to blame.  But so far in 2011, I have yet to have a month where I rode as many times as the same month in 2010.  Unless something happens to keep me off the bike next week, though, June should break that streak.  I rode 15 times in June 2010, and I’m currently at 14 for June 2011.  Assuming I ride with around the same frequency the second half of 2011 as I did the second half of 2010, I’ll finish up 2011 with around 165 rides, compared to 174 in 2010 and 144 in 2009.

The past week has been classic swampy Maryland summer weather.  It hasn’t been extremely hot, but the humidity has been off the charts.  Probably for the best, because I’m getting acclimated to it now, and it’s only going to get worse in July and August.

My single speed bike is finally back in the rotation – I rode it 4 times this week – and knock on wood, all seems well now with the rear tire.  Unfortunately, the bike is still not 100% right..  something is amiss with the headset.  It’s got a slight knock, and if I try to tighten it up enough to keep it from knocking, it starts to bind.  So something is apparently wrong with either the bearings or the bearing surfaces.  Not sure if the crash damaged the headset, or if I hosed it up earlier when I adjusted my stem height and then forgot to tighten it back down.  But in any case, I’ll get the bike shop to take a look at it, but in the meantime it’s not keeping me from riding the bike.

Summer Showers

Finally got my single speed bike back in service this morning, just in time to ride it to work in the rain.  This is the time of year where you almost hope for showers to provide relief from the humidity.  Indeed, the ran stopped about halfway through my ride, and I started sweating almost immediately.  The bike rode pretty well.  It’s got a new rear tire, and over the past couple of weeks I remounted the fenders, lubed everything up, and also adjusted the headset, which had somehow gotten too tight, to the point where it was binding.

We’ll see how these tires do.  They are Bontrager “Hard Case” 700c x 28, and they replaced a previous model of the same tire, although the old tires were skinnier (700c x 23).  The old tires were great, and lasted me over 2000 miles.  They probably would have lasted longer, but the front had a large hole in it from a piece of glass I ran over (though I put a boot on the inside and it still held air), and the rear got trashed when I wrecked this past winter.  These are wire bead tires, and the new ones were very hard to get on the rim.  My “bead jack” tool got them on painlessly though, and I’m now carrying one around in my bag in case I get a flat on the road.

Still working on the best fender-mounting scheme for this bike.  The frame and brakes leave plenty of clearance for fenders.  The front is no problem, but the back lacks frame eyelets and a brake bridge.  I used p-clamps, bolts, and nylon lock nuts to attach the struts.  Lacking a brake bridge, I’ve tried a number of different strategies to attach the front of the fender.  The current scheme features a short piece of 12 gauge solid copper electrical wire, wrapped tightly a couple of times around each chainstay.  I then attached the fender with a zip tie, and it seems relatively secure.  We’ll see how it stands up to riding.  For the top of the fenders, on the front, I used a “Sheldon Fender Nut.”  I couldn’t do the same thing on the back, because it put the mounting bracket too close to the tire.  So instead, I just used zip ties to attach the bracket to the brake bridge.  Zip ties do break periodically, but hopefully this setup will work OK otherwise.  With any luck, I’ll be able to ride the bike regularly for awhile now, and will report back after I’ve put a few hundred miles on it.

Beautiful Morning

There are so few nice mornings this time of year in Baltimore, that I couldn’t let this one get by without writing about it.  This morning’s ride-time temperature was 62°, dewpoint 51°, sunny with a light breeze out of the northwest.  I wore a long-sleeve jersey for the second morning in a row, which is unbelievably rare in June.  You just can’t order up more perfect biking weather than this.  It felt more like late September.  Today was my 11th consecutive ride on the road bike, which has been seeing a lot of action lately due to the mostly dry conditions.  The weather is fixing to take a turn for the worse starting tomorrow though, so I’ll likely be breaking the streak soon in favor of a bike with fenders.  My single-speed bike has been out of commission for a couple of weeks now due to a faulty rear tire, but I’ve got the replacement tire mounted now and I just need to re-install the rear fender.  The plan is to do that tonight and hopefully ride the single-speed tomorrow.

Code Orange

Well, just like last summer, this one looks to be nothing but bad air days as far as the eye can see.  And of course, on these days we’re all supposed to stay inside or drive around in our air conditioned cars, thereby creating MORE smog and continuing the downward spiral.  And in beautiful eastern Howard County, they’re happily building countless more new sprawl developments where you need a car to get anywhere.  Gotta love progress.  Sorry, I’m feeling cynical today.

I still ride my bike through the heat waves.  Most of the time, it’s not too bad.  Mornings are the best time of day to ride, but of course, as a bike commuter, I have to pay the piper and ride home in the late afternoon.  Around here, it usually hasn’t cooled off much by 5:00pm.  The key is taking it easy and staying hydrated.  My ride home is 8 miles.  Drinking lots of water during an 8-mile ride isn’t much help.  It’s essential to keep drinking during the day, leading up to the ride, to avoid getting dehydrated on the ride.  Then just take it slowly, pedal in a low gear, and take advantage of coasting when possible.  Air movement will provide a cooling effect, which makes cycling in hot weather more tolerable than other activities such as jogging.  So while it’s important to take it easy in the heat, you still have to go fast enough to get some cooling from the air.  It takes some practice to get the pacing down.  I have to re-acclimate myself to it every year around this time.  By July and August, it’s second nature.

With all the heat and lack of rain, the road bike has been my go-to bike lately.  After today’s ride, it’s only 2 slots off the leaderboard for most-used bike of the year, behind my mountain bike.  If the current weather patterns hold up through the summer, the road bike could build up a pretty healthy lead, though it’ll likely lose ground in the fall.  And hey, as hot as it is, my average ride-time temperature is still only 53°.  That would feel pretty darned nice this time of year…


I don’t post much about work on my blog, unless you count the act of getting to and from work on my bike.  This past weekend, UMBC lost power for around 72 hours, and the IT support/admin guys in our area were scrambling around madly the entire weekend, almost 24/7, trying to keep key systems and infrastructure functioning so the University could continue to do business.  Having been a systems administrator for a good spell in the ’90s, I know firsthand what a thankless job it is.  Everyone takes computers and network infrastructure for granted, until it goes down.  When a systems admin does a good job, and everything is working normally, no one notices.  Admins rarely hear from anyone unless something is down or broken. Systems admins are kind of like the white-collar equivalent to the BGE guys who go around restoring power after an outage.  IT infrastructure has become as important as electricity: when it works, it’s taken for granted; when it doesn’t, the world grinds to a halt.

Back in my day, when we didn’t have things like whole-building generators, everything would have just gone down and stayed down during an extended power outage.  This past weekend, save for a few minor glitches, UMBC’s IT infrastructure stayed largely intact and functional.  That’s a testament both to the increased importance of our infrastructure vs. 20 years ago, and the herculean efforts of the support staff to keep everything running.

My role during all of this mess, was just to be available in case one of the services for which I serve as designated babysitter needed attention, as the admins shuffled around the physical hardware to deal with the power issues.  Again thanks to these guys, none of my stuff broke down, and everything pretty much worked as it always had.  If it weren’t for having an unexpected day off on Friday, and the text messages from our emergency alert system, I might not even have known that the power was out.  Remarkable.  If you see one of these guys, make sure to thank them and buy them a beverage of their choosing.