Friday, April 29, 2005

Mint Julep & Superman

My fixie is finished--now I just have to learn how ride her. To be more precise, I need to learn how to make her stop. I only rode her the mile home tonight, and I realize that it will take a decent amount of practice to ride her confidently.

I didn't realize how much momentum would be exerted keeping the pedals turning--it takes a decent amount of force to slow down the rear wheel. I've experienced the ass-over-handlebars experience once before--and I'd rather not do it again. I'll need to learn the right combination of front-brake/rear wheel slowing. Currently I don't feel like I can stop the bike in any reasonable distance. I look forward to figuring it out, though.

The Julep is going to be fast (once I feel confident enough to slow/stop her). She is very light and I don't expect to give her the fender/rack treatment, unless I start commuting on her. She's riding on skinny tires--23 x 700, skinnier than the Bianchi tires. I had a bitch of a time trying to mount those tires on the rims until I was shown a trick by Arlene. Together, the wheels/tires of my fixie cost almost as much as the Tank himself did.

I also improved the Superman quite a bit, too. The wheels he came with were crappy, untrue, heavy steel and 26 x 1 3/8. Several bike-knowledgeable people told me that I couldnt' get new alloy wheels in this size, and that more standard sized wheels wouldn't fit. I wanted to swap the Mint Julep's old rear wheel onto the Superman, and according to my eyeballing of the situation, it should work. So about two minutes after the instructor tonight warned me to not even think about swapping the wheel, I threw Superman onto a stand and gave it a shot.

The swap totally worked. The brakes were adjustable and the wheel fit easily in the frame. The hub itself is still too tight and needs some work, but the wheel fits fine. So, ha ha to everyone who said I couldn't do this and told me I would be stuck with old steel rims. I adjusted the brakes so they stop the bike better and hoisted the seat up higher to make him more comfortable. I hope to start riding him regularly next week.

Too bad I don't have a camera to get pictures of the new bikes.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Wheels, bike shops and fixies

Warning: Long (and probably boring)

I didn’t do any bike repair or wheel purchasing on Sunday like I planned, because I both hung out with my law school friends, and spent time dorking around trying to get my DSL to work.

Monday night after work I had to scramble to try to get new wheels for the Julep in preparation for the 'convert your bike to a fixie workshop'. Her front wheel was an unrideable POS, so I stole the wheel off the Bianchi. I had previously removed the chain from the rear cassette/derailleur, and couldn’t quite figure out how to get it back on properly. I ended up jerry-rigging a weird set-up whereby the chain only went through one of the derailleur disks, and just rubbed oddly on the other one. I can’t quite explain it, but I think I did it backward, because the derailleur couldn’t move at all. Anyway, there was a gear that worked perfectly with this amount of chain. The chain was damn near rusted solid, too. I slathered oil on it and hand-spun the pedals until it moved relatively easily. Then I pumped air into the rear wheel and hit the road with my Frankenbike.

I rode fully expecting this jerry-rigged contraption to completely fall apart at any moment. At first, riding was quite hard, but after a few blocks things loosen up and became easier. I was giggling my ass off the whole way, because of the squeaking and squeeling noises my mount made. Weirdly, the pedals also couldn’t turn backwards. Somehow we made it to RT without any malfunction or accident. My plan was to bike to Rapid Transit and get new wheels for the bike—a fixed rear, and a replacement front. After the stop at RT, I only had less than a mile ride to West Town Bikes, the sit of the fixie workshop, where I would lock the bike and wheels up for the night.

My friend Sam, a mechanic at RT, shook his head at my rear derailleur set up. He was busy with another bike and after I gave him a brief run-down of my plans indicated that he would help me in a few minutes. I wandered to look for another lock and came back probably two minutes later: The Julep was hanging on a stand, stripped of her rear wheel, which was in the process of being taken apart by a different mechanic.

“Ummm….actually, I am planning on buying new wheels—so I don’t need any work done on the rear.”

--“Oh, well your front wheel is great and doesn’t need to be replaced. I just overheard snippets of your talk with Sam and thought you wanted this rear mess fixed.”

“No, I’m getting a new fixed rear wheel and converting it to a fixie. All I need is for it to be rideable to WTB.”

Poor boy—his face fell as he realized that what I was nicely trying to convey was, “Thanks, but you are only causing work for yourself, because I never asked for anything to be repaired.” I brought the bike into the store to make sure that the wheels I bought were correct for the spacing of the frame NOT for any work to be done.

So the nice mechanic tried to put the wheel back together—and had an awful time doing it. He couldn’t find parts that ‘it must have had’ and his professional pride wouldn’t allow him to re-install the wheel until the hub was fixed. Apparently it is a pretty good hub because it has an internal bearing system (?). He tried to excitedly explain it to me, but to me it looked as though he was just pointing at metal, while words like cones and sealed ballbearings were loosed from his tongue.

It was very frustrating, because I spent well over an hour there, but didn’t even get wheels. I felt sort of guilty for having the mechanic spend so much time on my bike and was worried that I would be expected to pay for labor (Fuck that—I didn’t request any of the ‘work’). Plus I was annoyed because I had hoped to see a screening of “The End of Suburbia” at a nearby artspace. Instead I was stuck at the bike shop after it closed waiting for my bike to become rideable again.

In the middle of this mess, I finally spoke with Sam and we started talking new wheels. He said that they didn’t have any fixed hub wheels in stock and that it would take about a week to order one. His suggestion was that I contact Kevin at Boulevard or Marcus at Yojimbos. Grrrrr. None of the front wheels that they had in stock were narrow enough for my wishes—once again it would take several days and the other shops were my best bet. Fuckity Fuc Fuk Fuck. It was too late to go to another shop (and my bike still wasn’t rideable!).

Then, after the shop was closed and I was just hanging out with the mechanics/employees I started to receive unsolicited criticism about the bike from one employee in particular (CW): “Your seat is adjusted far too low and forward for your height; that stem seems awfully short, your cables look like they are too old and slack, the derailleur is shot.” Even though I had said the following about a dozen times, he couldn’t get this through his head: “I just bought the bike from Working Bikes for the frame to convert to a fixed gear. Besides my jerry-rigging it to ride it here, I haven’t done any work on it yet.” I think this should convey the idea that I understand it needs work/adjustments, and that any talk of derailleurs and brake cables are moot. Grrrrr.

I didn’t fucking ask for his advice, I didn’t ask for the cassette to be removed from my wheel or my hub to be worked on. I was trapped there because one employee didn't listen to me and now I had to deal with another employee who didn't understand the situation because he, too refused to listen. LISTENING is an important skill—learn it. My time and the mechanic's were wasted because he first mechanic jumped to a conclusion after overhearing bits of a brief conversation.

CW was also disparaging people (myself including, I assume) who buy pre-built wheels…”it is such waste of money, and building wheels is so easy.” Then he began mentioning classes he teaches about wheel-building and bike-cleaning. No Fucking Way. I am interested in learning more about building wheels—but there is no way in hell that I would voluntarily take a class from this guy.

This sounds like a really negative accounting of my experience—and certainly parts of the evening were. However, Sam is great. He listened to me and gave me the facts of the situation and advice on what to do about the wheels, instead of just trying to push the store’s wares. Additionally, when he heard my plan to lock the Julep up on the rack outside of WTB overnight, he offered to ride over there with me so my bike could be secure indoors (he co-teaches a class and has a key). After the rear wheel was reinstalled and the bike was mobile, and after I had lost all illusions of catching the movie, it was nice being in the store waiting for Sam. The mechanics and staff are all very nice and (besides CW) also very cool. Hanging out with them in the workshop was overall, pretty fun. CW is just clueless and doesn’t realize that what he considers being helpful while sharing his passion for bikes comes across as condescending and rude. Basically he is oblivious. I actually ended up learning quite a bit about bikes and wheels, but certainly not in the way that I would prefer.

I think I will try to replace the heavy steel rear wheel on the Superman with the rear wheel currently on the Julep. Learning how expensive wheels are makes me less inclined to just buy new wheels willy-nilly. I think I will still get the Superman a new front wheel, though—because it seems seriously out of true and again made out of heavy steel.

After taking the bike to WTB, I had a pleasant 1.5 mile walk back to my apartment carrying my Bianchi's front wheel.

I just spoke w/ Marcus at Yojimbo's Garage and he has the wheels that I will need. I will either pick them up Thursday morning before work, or if I need them tomorrow night, he will arrange a time for me to get them (normally he is closed on Wednesday). How cool is that? He doesn't know me from Adam, but he is willing to be flexible to help me out.

So I think everything will be timed right for the fixie workshop tonight. I am so excited! I hope to be able to ride her at Critical Mass on Friday. Yippee!!

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The Road Tank

As planned, I went to Working Bikes today and picked up an 'everyday road bike'. He is the Road Tank--a perfect bike for 'training'. I think he is made out of lead, because it is unbelievable how heavy he is considering how tiny he looks. The staff at WB were joking with me that his frame didn't consist of tubes, but instead solid metal bars. Besides being heavy, this Schwinn Collegiate has a few other interesting characteristics:
  • A single chainring,
  • Freewheel bottom bracket,
  • Superman-Blue w/ matching blue seat,
  • Cute (probably useless) little crome fenders,
  • Plus, like the Mint Julep frame--this is another Chicago-built Schwinn

He is a five-speed bike, with gears much lower than I prefer to ride. In order to ride this bike fast, I will be forced to pedal faster instead of relying on the gears to give me speed. Isn't this just the perfect training bike for me?--heavy, low gears, but with road bike geometry and drop bars.

Halfway home, a weird sensation occurred--every few pedal strokes, the bikechain 'hiccupped' and felt like the bike was changing gears. I'll have to investigate this. Besides that problem, there are a few other concerns that I need to deal with tomorrow in order to ride him into work on Monday:

  • major seat adjustments,
  • significant brake adjustments (especially the rear),
  • general cleaning/lubrication,
  • swap the rear rack from off of the Bianchi

Plus, I think the front wheel may be out of true. I guess I'll have to spend some time dealing with the wheel at West Town Bikes sometime soon and try to true it up. Ugh. Or, I'll pay/bribe/sweet talk somebody else into doing this for me.

Additionally, this Tues, Weds, Thurs is the Cycling Sisters' 'convert your bike to a fixie' workshop! This means that besides spending Sunday working on the Road Tank, I will also need to get wheels to convert the Mint Julep. Since the Road Tank will have low gears, I think I will gear the fixie high. I expect that she's going to be ridden almost exclusively within city limits, so I don't have to worry about unexpected hills. I also expect that I will ride her in groups of fast riders, so I'll actually need the high gear.

Together the Julep and the Road Tank should help me become a stronger rider. I want touring/bike-packing trips to be more fun than challenging this summer, so I need to get as much 'training' out of every mile I pedal in Chicago. Ideally, the Bianchi will feel light as a feather and wicked fast after riding these other two bikes around for a while. But before that happens, I need to actually get both of these road-ready. Sunday is going to be a busy, busy, bikey day. In preparation, I shall now go out and drink with my law school friends. D'oh.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Smells like Ammonia

I'm sick again. The past three months have brought more sickness to me than the last 15 years of my life. Like Ms. Hamer--I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. At least this time I have an interesting symptom: It feels, smells and tastes like I am breathing chemical fumes. For over 24 hours inhaling gives me the sensation of breathing in the fumes of strong cleaning products. Add the accompaning headache, stinging eyes, raw throat, slight woosy-dissiness and all the other nasty effects of chemical fumes.

This started when I walked into my apartment building yesterday--I was almost choking as I carried my bike up the steps. The smell disipated as I climbed and was much milder in my apartment--but still annoying. My roommate didn't notice anything, even though it brought tears to my eyes. I spent most of the evening on the porch, where the air tasted fine. But when I later entered the drugstore (I bought new socks!!!) I literally could feel my throat closing. Very weird. My office was the same as my apartment. The exhaust from vehicles is nauseating. No one else has this sensation.

My guess is that for some reason, I am just temporarily super-sensitive to some common chemical. Whatever the explanation--this blows. Even though I understand that my perspective is skewed, it feels so fucking real and I can't quite believe that other people aren't experiencing this acrid air.

But anyway, this is only the newest symptom of illness. On Sunday morning I woke up with a cough that sounded like a barking seal. Monday brought me a coughing fit so violent that I pulled a muscle in my back--making me dread even more each inevitable cough. Overlay this with just a general tired, shittiness and a stuffy head. Three other people called in sick yesterday--our office is just a festering bed of recycled illness.

I realized today that I haven't been 100% well since I got sick in mid-January. My lungs have felt slightly 'clogged' ever since that episode, preventing me from being able to pull in as much air or breath as deeply as I'd like. Plus I've had a lingering, laughing-induced cough that has been around for months, too. Given that I laugh a lot, this results in coughing fits galore.

Enough of this--I'm drinking liquids, taking my vitamins, getting plenty of sleep. I want to be completely well again.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Where are my Steeltoes?

Ah, Spring....I have long since shed my steel-toed boots and am digging the warmth. Unfortunately so are all of the assholes who have been cloistered indoors, silenced behind car windows and hunched in scarves, hats and jacket collars.

Here is a big Fuck You to every sexist pervert asshole who has fouled my mood in the past few days by yelling or murmuring nasty comments. Since I know that boys don't really get to experience this, here are the memorable comments (add at least 3 'hey babys' and 2 'can I have a ride' and several 'kissy' noises for each unique remark). Welcome to being a woman on a city street/sidewalk:
  • "Hey, come back here so I can touch you!" demanded a limo window-hanger-out-of. 6:30pm.
  • " what your momma gave you" bus stop jerk. 8:00am. (was this a request for an outburst of bitchy, short-temperedness--because that's what I inherited maternally-- except for the plumbing, my body is almost all from my dad)
  • Most disturbing, while I was on foot, was the guy who walked behind me for more than a block murmuring pure nastiness about ways that he was imagining touching me. blech. His eyes were weirdly glazed from either drugs or mental illness, so I didn't confront this guy. 8:00pm.
  • Foreign language guys--my new neighborhood has both hispanics and eastern eurpoeans--many who blatantly stare at women. With these guys, I don't know what they are saying--but I know the tone and imagine that it is best that I don't understand the language.

I know these pricks will never read this, but damn do I want to deliver violence to them.

I've started walking around my neighborhood to explore after work, and the creepy guys do not make this a pleasant experience. My feet itch for my steel-toed boots and my hands ache for my U-lock when I encounter this nasty behavior. These comments are much easier to deal with on my bike because I am usually past the men before the comment actually registers. If I am in a position to interact with the guy, I am much more aggressive and vocal on wheels than hooving it because I'm used to yelling at drivers. My speed and nimbleness probably also embolden me (along with my U-lock) to be more confrontational when I bike.

Regardless of the mode of transportation--I hate these comments and the men who spew them. I don't at all understand the motivation behind the remarks--coming from a small, rural town, this behavior isn't what I grew up with. It was the hardest thing for me to adapt to when I moved to Chicago. Although it no longer surprises me, it still angers and mystifies me.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Crazy Work Weekend

Friday 5:03pm
I was planning on busting out early. Bicycle helmet, sunglasses and gloves were on and my paniers were in my hands as I started to say goodbye for the weekend. Then the shit hit the fan. A new matter had walked in our door minutes earlier and it required an ‘all hands on deck’ approach. The off-hours paralegal worked to organize the documents and we agreed to meet at 10:00 on Saturday, with the expectation that the whole weekend would be consumed by this project. Great.

Friday 5:30pm
Everyone, including me, called off all of our weekend plans.

Saturday 10:00am-9:00pm
We came to the office and learned that the boss decided that he didn’t need to involve himself in the weekend prep. This is Crazy–he is the main person on the file, the attorney who will make decisions on strategy and the person who will actually defend the depositions of the client. He of all people needs to know the file backwards and forwards. Instead on Friday night he called a junior associate and told him to tell the other partner (who isn’t supposed to work on the file-at all) that he should handle it.

We ground out research and created deposition materials–I left barely before 9:00pm without having left the office since 10:00am. The office was a flurry of activity and legal wheels were spinning.

Sunday 11:00am-11:00pm (on and off)
I worked from home drafting my research memos and felt incredibly guilty that I only emailed copies to the boss and our consultant. At 11:00pm I considered my work finished as I sent off my final memo. One personal email was sent, and I waddled off to bed.

Monday 8:00am
I came in early, expecting that there would be a deluge of emails containing new assignments, corrections and questions. Nope–not a single e-mail, and the work from Saturday was still in my boss’s inbox: He hadn’t been to the office all weekend!

Monday 10:00am
The boss is currently holed up in his office, and everyone is really weirded out by his behavior. He has to meet with the client later today, and no one has received any direction about what we are supposed to do in the meantime. I expected the office to again hit the ground running today, but instead we are spinning our wheels. Additionally, the partner who worked with us on Saturday is out of the office at his grandmother’s funeral today (he was supposed to be writing her eulogy and spending time with his family on Saturday, but couldn't because of work). I can hear my boss calling attorneys to get a status on many other less pressing cases. Grrrrrr......we worked all fucking weekend because of the deadline of this project, and now my boss is pulling an ostrich act on us.

Monday 11:45
We are finally called in for a meeting to discuss our findings and recommendations: it is obvious that he hasn't read a damn thing about the file, so the meeting is painfully slow and stilted as we try to get the boss up to speed on the file. He has to meet with a super-important client at 1:00 and is just beginning the learning process. Double Grrrr. As is his way, he continually gets sidetracked by formatting issues (this should be indented, I like headings in bold instead of italicized, I wish these binder tabs were letters instead of numbers.....) instead of concentrating on the substance of the issues. If I were one of the other partners I don't think I could have refrained from throttling him for this behavior--it is so unprofessional. But since I'm just a peon, I don't have too much of a private interest in whether or not our firm makes an ass out of ourselves.

Oh yeah, I got to see EM, another associate (one year more experience than me) get a verbal beat-down at the meeting. The boss said his research and analysis was 'useless' and couldn't be submitted to the client. EM's hands were visibly trembling and I could see the sweat patches on his shirt expand throughout the meeting. I tried to help him out by supplying the statute or case he needed several times, but I think this just made him look less prepared. The vibe of the room was really unpleasant and everyone was super-tense.

Monday 1:20
Thankfully I didn't have to meet the client with the boss, so I was able to grab lunch and just wait for the next wave of craziness to crash into the office upon his return.
I hate this.
Maybe more updates later......

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Clippity clip and tattoos

The clips are working pretty well--I am often engaging immediately, and the problems clipping in are becoming less frequent. The fear of forgetting to unclip is also reducing. In anticipation of clipping into a fixie, I'm also trying to only clip-in the second foot as the pedals are turning. After two days of trying this technique, it really doesn't seem much harder than clipping in while coasting on the bike. Since this is all new to me, I may as well learn how to do it right now, instead of having to relearn it later.

I had a lunch meeting today that I rode to in the rain. It was only a few blocks away, so I wore my heeled boots instead of the clipless shoes. The combination of boots, and wet, slippery clipless pedals was not particularly good. I had to concentrate the whole ride on keeping my feet firmly on the pedals. Unacceptable.

Besides going to Working Bikes this weekend to get an older, everyday road bike, I think I will also start experimenting with installing cleats on 'normal' shoes. At the Cycling Sisters meeting on Sunday, I mentioned that I was going to try this out. Everyone was very excited about this idea, and I was signed up to teach a workshop on converting regular shoes into clipless--so I best get started. Bike shoes are really dorky-looking, and as much as I dress like a dork, even I can't feel comfortable wearing the bike shoes with my regular clothes. So I'll stop at Goodwill sometime this week and look for some thick/lugged-soled candidates to experiment with. Hopefully I will be successful and soon have at least a pair of mary janes to clip in.

I possibly gave myself a tattoo tonight at work. Absentmindedly I grabbed a pen and began playing with it while talking to my boss. I wasn't paying attention and jammed the point into the palm of my hand. For some reason I didn't want my boss to know how stupid I had just been, so I pretended nothing happened, and kept my bloody hand out of sight until he left my office. After washing it off, there is definitely ink still in my skin. Time will tell whether or not it is at the correct depth to permanently mark me, or whether it will surface and wear off. I sort of think it would be cool if it stayed--as a small, permanent reminder to not be such a dumbass.

Monday, April 11, 2005


I rode home from work hoping to beat the impending storm (mostly to avoid having to wipe down the bike--I enjoy riding in the rain, especially storms). I had a sweet tailwind, and flew over the pavement--very few cars passed me and lights turned green under my glare. My speedometer wasn't noticed except for the few times I was slowing or stopping, and then it registered 20-23mph at first glance.

When I got home I checked my bike computer to see what my maximum speed was--thinking that I may have pushed it past the 25mph point. Imagine my utter shock when it registered 39.7mph! Good thing I was watching the road instead of the speedometer. I am pretty sure it happened on a flat stretch, because something slowed me down going down each of the overpass 'hills'. Obviously the tailwind had much, much, much to do with this speed, but damn was the ride home fun!

I think I will have to erase this maximum speed from the computer, because riding with the wind is cheating. Plus, it will probably be quite a while before I get that fast again, and I'd like to have some more realistic numbers to try to top.

Road bikes are cool.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Road Bikes and Fixies

Road Bike I:
As requested, here is a picture of my new ride, a 2005 Bianchi Brava (pretty him up with a rear rack and fender, though):

He is definitely of the same mind as the Tank, and is using some of the same sneaky tricks.

On Sunday morning I took a trip down to Hyde Park to run some errands. I was looking forward to this ride along the lakeshore, because it was going to be my first opportunity to ride the Bianchi without stopping every two blocks for a red light. I really wanted to see what he could do. He wasn't as cooperative and instead was slow and required work to make him go.

Today, I finally cut off the 'earflaps' that I sewed onto the straps of my helmet in November. The flaps had kept the sound/feel of the air rushing by me from reaching my ears. Without them it seemed like I was riding in a windstorm. This tricked me into thinking that I was working against the wind and explained how hard it was to pedal for the speed that I was riding. At first when I hit the lakeshore path I was keeping a 20 mph pace, but then this started dropping 19..18...17....finally 16 mph was all that I could do without gasping for air.

I berated myself for being so out of shape and slow. Down in Hyde Park I wheeled my bike backwards away from a rack--and the front of the bike lifted off of the ground as the rear wheel stuck firmly to the pavement. Obviously I needed to investigate. The rear wheel was (surprise) rubbing against the frame by the bottom bracket. There was a decent-sized build-up of rubber on the frame, too. I must have unseated the wheel when I thwacked it against the wall on the stairway.

He rolled much easier after I adjusted the wheel correctly. However, after 13 miles of riding with the wheel against the frame, I wasn't in any condition to ride him really fast. On the return trip we rode about 18 mph. That's not bad, but after yesterday my bike computer shows my fastest speed as 24.9 mph and I really want to see how much faster I can get him going.

The clipless shoes are getting better--I really like feeling the pressure on the top of my foot as I pull up. Still there are times where clipping in seems impossible. I have had a few starts where I clip in perfectly at the first downward pedal stroke. This worked beautifully as I made a left turn from Michigan Avenue to Randolph. As soon as I got the green arrow I engaged the pedal and flew through the large intersection--way ahead of the other vehicles in both left-turning lanes. Two intersections later I squeezed through a yellow light, but all of the cars I turned with got stuck back there. I felt like a super-star racer.

After the Cycling Sisters meeting today, I got to show the girls my new bike. They cooed over her like she was a baby I just birthed. It was fun and silly. Yet another (road bike) person expressed apprehension about riding with me now that I am off of the Tank and on a road bike. I don't think it is warranted, but somehow I have gotten a reputation as a fast rider. I'll have to make sure to let other people choose the pace when we ride together, because I'd hate to make my friends work harder than they'd prefer on fun rides.

Road Bike II:

On Saturday I went to Working Bikes to pick up a roadbike frame to convert to a fixie, and I found a perfect frame. She is a light Chicago-made steel Schwinn Traveler, and she is going to be wicked fast once she is stripped of all of her unneccessary parts. I looked for a serial number on the left rear drop-out, but couldn't find anything, so I don't know what year she is. Right now she has really beat-up steel wheels and still feels damn light. She is a minty color (almost exactly like the traditional Bianchi green) and I think I will call her Mint Julep.

My friends Sarah and Sam were there helping their students pick out frames for the 'build a bike' workshop that they teach. After looking at several other bikes, Sarah found this one for me. She has a fixie with the same frame and says it is a great bike. It has horizontal drop-outs and a solid pressed crank/chainring instead of a fused one. Sam said that the fused ones can turn into 'pizza cutters' from the stress put on a fixed gear. Sarah and I will have matching fixies by the end of April.

In the meantime, I guess I need to buy a new set of wheels for this bike. I'll ask around first, but I should probably get a flip-flop hub for versatility, as recommended by Gilby. I wonder if wheels are a good thing to buy off of ebay, or if I should just order them from a bike shop. Wheels/tires, chain, pedals--this is at least what I'll need to convert the Schwinn into the Mint Julep. I think I'm going to keep her front brake on until (if) I get brave (stupid) enough to try to ride brakeless.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Goodbye Dear Tank

My dear Tank was kidnapped Thursday morning, and I don’t expect to see him again. I went downstairs to go to work and his spot in the locked entrance was empty. I walked around the block looking for his hobbled, free-locked body–but alas, he is gone.

The police and landlord were called first, and then I called in and took a personal day off from work. I printed fliers for the other tenants and posted them on doors. Finally, I gathered my helmet and credit card and headed towards Boulevard Bikes. It was weird being a pedestrian as I walked the mile to the Blue Line. The CTA has not known my company since Thanksgiving, so riding the train was sort of exciting, too.

Kevin at Boulevard was great–he spent a lot of time helping me pick out a bike and then fit it to my body. Actually, I didn’t so much pick the new bike, as the new bike picked me. Kevin and I were talking about gears, spinning and cadence as he tried to dissuade me from larger, racing, chainring. I explained that I would rather push the gears than spin the pedals, and that I was excited about having a larger chainring. Shaking his head he said that to bicycle smart, consistent cadence and shifting were necessary. Well, that’s just not the way I roll and it’s worked well for me so far, and I don’t really plan on changing.

Anyway, I took one bike for a ride and dutiful shifted through the gears. When I dropped it into the ‘granny gear’ on the chainring, the bike echoed my stance of "granny gear my ass": the chain slipped off, folded over and became wedged tight against the frame. My pulling on it didn’t budge it, and I didn’t want to wreck anything so I hoisted the bike on my shoulder to walk it back to the shop. As I carried the hobbled bike back, I knew he would be mine. He demonstrated that he wished to ride the same way I do–in high gear. Plus, the Tank seemed to be channeling his approval of this new, obstinent steed. I found my new bike.

The next step was scary: clipless shoes. I planned on scurrying out of the store with the shoes and then figuring out how to work them in private, amidst whimpering and cursing. The guys at Boulevard wouldn’t allow it and forced me to figure it out in the shop. My pride kept the whimpering and whining to a minimum and with support and patience I figured it out enough to ride home clipped in.

My right foot clips in pretty easily–but I always dismount on my left, which is hard to clip in. Approaching one intersection I decided to clip out and dismount on my right foot. This worked fine until I forgot and started to lean my bike down on my left. I was trapped in the pedal and gravity was working. Instead of unclipping my left foot, I swung my right leg back and over and managed to keep from falling. I have a feeling that this maneuver either looked extremely graceful, or extremely clumsy and bizarre. This was my only close-call from the clipless. I am getting the hang of them, but it will take more practice.

When I got home many hours later, I returned my boss’s message. He was really cool and sympathized with ‘my baby being kidnapped’. He also offered to give me an advance on my bonus if wanted. I’ll probably take him up on that offer.

During the day I went to two bike shops and bought:
Road bike,
Clipless shoes,
Rear rack,
Mini U-Lock,
Spare tube.

Whew. I was then awake until 1:30AM trying to attach the front fender. The bike is really annoying, because it has braze-ons for racks and fenders, but they seem to be more decorative than functional. The rear brakes make the left braze-on useless, which made the rack installation complicated. The front fork has braze-ons for the fenders stays, but not quite enough clearance for both the fender and the wheel. In order to attach that fender, I am going to have to whittle parts of it off. Luckily the rear fender went on really easily and doesn’t rub at all.
I rode into work today, taking Hubbard because it is all 4-way stops intersections and I wanted to have lots of clip-in, clip-out opportunities. Today clipping in either seemed immediate and smooth, or hopelessly mashing my foot into the pedal. Anyway, even with the clipless distraction and the lack of a straight away to build up speed, I hit 22.8 MPH on the ride to work today. I can’t wait to actually take this bike out and see what we can do clipped in and working. This will be the first time I’ve been on a road bike with a computer, so I’m excited to learn the speeds that I travel.

I miss my dear old Tank, but I am excited about the new bike. The landlord is meeting with me on Saturday morning to discuss changing/adding some of locks. This new bike is always getting locked in my apartment–luckily he is light enough to easily carry up the stairs. But tomorrow I plan to go to Working Bikes to get a frame to turn into a fixie. I need an everyday bike that I don’t have to stress out about locking outside. Plus, I need a heavier bike for everyday to keep my legs strong–I don’t want to get slow by riding a fast bike all of the time.

My dining room looks like a bike shop. John is buying a bike stand, so this will probably only get worse as the summer marches on and I add more bikes to my stable. This new one will be the gem in the crown, and he will be my ride of choice for touring and other long or fast rides. Too fun.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Riding Fast, Silly Lawyers

I get tutored on Hearsay every Wednesday morning before work because I never took Evidence in law school. After dawdling around this morning, I had to push it to get to the office at 7:30. I guess I haven't ridden fast to work since I moved, so this felt good. More importantly, I hit every light green on Grand Avenue. I hope that they are timed together--because then I could do this every day! I was really excited about the ride in this morning, because my foot only touched the ground once.

I got into work on time, changed clothes, waited for my tutor to arrive, read email, waited, waited...... I finally left my wing of the office to grab some documents--and found the professor waiting for me outside of my office. He hadn't even tried to buzz in, because "I wasn't sure you were in yet." What the Hell does this mean? Did he expect that I would keep periodically checking the hallway for him? I'm thankful that he is teaching me evidence, but c'mon can't professors have a wee bit of common sense?

Also, last night I had friends over for dinner. I was just thinking about leaving when, at 5:30, my boss decided to have our 'afternoon' meeting that he had been blowing off all day. As the clock ticked forward I realized how little attention my boss had been paying to the details of the file. He much rather prefers to ask questions than listen to the answers, so again and again we hashed over the same issues. This is frustrating at any time, but with the minute hand marching ahead, I was getting antsy. Finally I ran out of the building just minutes before 7:00 and raced like hell to get home and start cooking. I plan on switching to an early schedule now that it is light out in the evening--these futile, 'after-hours' 'afternoon' meetings won't fly with me, because I hope to cut out shortly after 5:00 on most nights. This lawyer gig is getting old.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Busy, busy

I've been waaay too busy lately.

Monday was my six month anniversary of working--and damn am I getting sick of this job and my boss. I need a new project/clinet/case at work to make it interesting again.

Anyway, the weekend was very busy--I worked the Bike Show on Friday night and then had the Gala on Saturday night. My new place is turning into a hostel, and our May roommate, Mia, brought her stuff over and we hung out. Then poker at Tana's. The Gala was the high point of the weekend--very fun.

Work today was super-boring and I left before 6:00. As I was unlocking my bike, Grant road by and yelled 'hi' to me. I caught up with him, my roommate and David a few intersections later--they are the bike guys at CDOT. They were going over to Grant and Anne's place to grill out and invited me to join them. I had previous plans of preparing for dinner tomorrow night and reading evidence materials--these plans were altered immediately. We cooked and hung out on the porch for a couple of hours--it was very nice and felt good. Afterwards we caught the NCAA basketball championship game and just relaxed. Basically a great weeknight.

After we left, I still had to shop prepare for the dinner I'm cooking tomorrow for Tara, Diane and Shawna. To sate my growing desire for plantains, I decided to cook Carribean food. Here's the menu:
Smokey, Spicey Black Beans & Rice
Fried Plantains
Jicama Mango Salad
Carmelized Fresh Pineapple with Coconut Ice Cream

The base for the ice cream works best if it rests overnight, so I had to whip that together when I got home. I sort of merged a couple of ice cream recipes together to develop the coconut ice cream--hopefully it will turn out OK. I also chopped the onion, red pepper and juiced a lime to make a marinade for the salad. Cooking tomorrow will be a snap.

I think the total grocery bill was $18 to feed 4-5 people (I did forget jalepenos and cilantro). If we were going out to dinner each person would pay about that amount--so this is definitely a win-win situation: I get to cook and everyone else saves money. I'm hoping to have different people over each week. Here is the upcoming guest list:
Grant & Anne
Todd & Lisa
Emily & Ted
Hui Hwa, Mark & Sara
Tara & Isaac
Tana, Gabe & Jill
Gin & Michael
Karen & Kevin
Sarah & Sam

Goodness--almost everyone I know is coupled up! When did that happen?

John and I also decided to buy a grill, so we can also BBQ out on the porch. My summer is going to rock--but I don't know when I will sleep!

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