Sunday, May 01, 2005

The Hostel

My apartment is becoming a borderline hostel--and I love it. In May (and maybe June) we are hosting Mia, a friend of John's and the drummer in his band. She lives in Chicago but had a weird vacation/moving crisis and brought over her stuff before spending a month in Bupal. She came back on Thursday and will stay here until she finds her own place. Mia seems very cool--and I will shamelessly blame her for any hair-clogged drains or other long-hair related problems for at least the next three months. tehehe.

Today we were all discussing future house guests--besides Mia we are also hosting John's friend from Switzerland for a week, Mia's Franco-friend for a night, her friend from Austin for a weekend and my two friends from WI for a weekend. I think this is very fun. Living in the co-op, we regularly had houseguests and it was cool to meet so many new people. I'm looking for forward to many interesting wine-laden conversations in our kitchen.

Besides just being nice, Mia is pretty devoted to yoga classes. I used to take classes down in Hyde Park, but never sought out a new instructor when I moved away. Lately I have been feeling sort of creaky, and have been meaning to begin doing it again. I expect that Mia will inspire me to actually do it, instead of just thinking about it. woo-hoo!

I rode the fixed gear Mint Julep around town today to try to get the hang of braking. I'm getting better, but still don't think I could stop suddenly to avoid a collision. I am trying to use the front brake as little as possible in order to make sure that I instinctively slow down the rear wheel. I also switched the brake from the left to the right hand of my bike, and that feels more comfortable. My concern over braking also prevents me from really biking fast--this should be an interesting learning process. One of my casual bikey friends who is amazingly graceful on his fixies offered to spend time in a parking lot teaching me some tricks of fixie riding. I think I'll take him up on it in a few weeks.

Besides the braking concerns, riding the Julep isn't much different than any other bike. I did learn that I coasted more than I expected: going over rough pavement, open grate bridges, when I signal or when I use my hands to zip/unzip my jacket or anything else. Another thing I learned is that I will probably need to buy a smaller cog once I get confident enough to ride her fast.

I think riding the fixie is going to be good for several reasons. It will work different muscles when I slow the bike down. Slowing the bike down currently feels very jerky, but I can imagine it becoming fluid as I get used to it. I've been focusing on pedaling in a smooth circular motion instead of jackhammering an up-down pedaling style: I need a lot of work. Slowing the rear wheel down with my legs seems to work better when it is fluid, and I think learning this skill will help my forward pedaling, too. Since I can't easily kick the right pedal upwards (my normal starting position) I was forced to start with my left foot several times. I don't think this will really improve my performance, but I like the idea of becoming more versatile and comfortable on my bike.

Speaking of comfort--I installed my roadbike seat on the Julep and put the Butterfly seat on the Bianchi. My guestimation wasn't very accurate, and I was resting far too much of my weight on my pubic bone instead of my sit bones. Not good. I'll have to tinker with that some more.

I think I will try to ride the Julep into work on Monday: Poor braking, rush-hour downtown Chicago traffic--what could possibly go wrong?


At 3:11 AM, Blogger hereNT said...

One thing to keep in mind is that the fixie should teach you anticipation and planning in traffic. There will still be some instances for panic stops, but what you really want to learn is to look further ahead and in a wider path. Move around the cars and pedestrians. When you get better at the faster/slower connection between your legs and the bike, you should find yourself moving a lot more fluidly with traffic.

One example : You're moving down a street with parking on the side, but none where you are. Cars are approaching in both lanes, and will cross right where the next parked car is. A quick backpedal or two, and you've slowed just enough to let the car going in the same direction as you pass, then move into the lane behind them, catching their draft to pull you through the next light. Neither car has to move, and your speed has only dropped long enough to let that car by.

Not really sure what I'm getting at here, other than you need to know the flow of how you fit inbetween traffic on a fix. Hammering at lights then stopping isn't good. Timing the lights so you hit them green is...

Um, yeah, anyways...


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