A Bike Life

Four decades of touring, racing, commuting and recovery … a bike life indeed!

Author: Dave (Page 2 of 2)

It Looks like an Expedition

Lining ’em up

My wife and I have eight children. Even with my adult children out of the house, a bike ride for the whole family invariably involves not just my kids but their friends as well. On the Fourth of July we decided to go up and visit my father and brother-in-law in Cedar Falls. Cedar Falls was one of the first cities in the country to get serious about bike trails and for a city of its size, it has an excellent trail network.

Unfortunately it takes a lot of work to get seven bikes ready for a ride. the first problem was that we didn’t have enough bikes in the right sizes. My son’s friend was coming along so his dad loaned us a bike. The loaner bike and my three bikes (road, fixed gear and mountain) all had clipless pedals of one sort or another and I was the only one in the group who knew how to ride with them. So, I had to swap pedals on a couple of bikes. Next I put the boys to work inflating 14 tires.

Seven bikes in the big van

Of course the other  difficult part of taking the whole crew on a ride is getting the bikes there. We have a Pointiac minivan that has the distinction of being one of only a few vehicles that neither Yakima nor Thule roof racks can fit. We have a Saris two bike rack that my wife and I use. Fortunately for big events we still have our Ford 15 passenger van. I have Yakima’s largest roof rack for it but as you can see on the right it is rarely necessary. With three of the seats removed we can fit 8 people and still have room inside for 8 bikes.  It is hard to tell but the picture above shows seven bikes in the back of the van.

The expedition was a success. We rode along the Cedar River on a tree-lined bike trail. The teenagers rode on ahead while my wife and I rode with her brother. Her brother hasn’t been on a bike in at least twenty years so we took it pretty easy. We probably rode about 7-9 miles. All in all it was a good ride. Her brother is interested in buying a bike since his house, in the Chicago suburbs, is surrounded by bike trails. We’ll have to make an expedition to go and ride with him.

When I am old I shall wear … NEON!

Wearing Neon

My wife said it not me. Of course she was paraphrasing Jenny Joseph’s When I am an old woman I shall wear purple. Today, riding to the downtown farmers market is the first time I got my wife to wear biking clothes.

I have actually been trying to get her to ride for decades. A couple years ago I bought her a woman’s specific bike, a Specialized Dolce. The bike fits her perfectly and has a comfortable saddle … it has made all the difference.

This year after much prodding I convinced her to try cycling clothing. We were in Schaumburg, Illinois and I got her a pair of Terry bike shorts. It helped that one of the salespeople in the shop was a woman who (let me say this delicately) was not a typical 105lb cyclist. She gave my wife some excellent advice and shared her personal recommendation. My wife and I ordered matching neon yellow jerseys from Aerotech Designs. Finally I bought her Pearl Izumi SPD compatible shoes from my LBS. She doesn’t ride clipless yet but she likes the stiffer sole.

So today she and I wore our matching bike outfits to the farmers market. She said that the clothes were comfortable and equally important she did not feel self-conscious wearing them in public. As a bonus when we got separated in the crowd at the farmer’s market, the neon made her easy to find. 🙂

The (bike) Dashboard and the Bell

Road Bike Dashboard

I currently have three bikes, a road bike, a fixed gear and a mountain bike. My two primary bikes, the road and fixed gear are both configured with nearly identical dashboards. I just got my road bike fork back from Jeffery Bock, an old friend and frame builder. The bike is a Bridegstone RB-1 an old ’80s racer. Jeff added eyelets and lowrider mounts so I could carry front panniers and use the bike to commute. If you look closely you can see the rack parallel to the front tire.

Fixed Gear Dashboard

On my dashboard I have a CygoLite Million 200. This is a 200 lumen LED light. I bought it because it is one single piece and recharges via USB so I can charge it at my desk at work. 200 lumens is a very bright like it is highly visible even in daylight. For daytime road rides I set it to flash so cars can see me even if they are driving into the sun. Next I have a Cateye wireless cyclometer. Since my dashboard is busy I wanted a computer that could mount on the stem. Finally on the right side I have a bell. My fixed gear bike has almost the same setup except the light is a Nightrider Ultra Fazer 5.o. The Nightrider is not as powerful as the CygoLite but it is better than nothing.

One of my pet peeves is people who ride on trails and do not call out when they pass. Most trails are multi-use and here in Cedar Rapids you will find runners, walkers, Roller-Bladers, moms pushing strollers, dog walkers and cyclists sharing the same trail. The problem is that everyone on the trail moves at a different speed. Since bikes are the fastest trail users and move silently, trail etiquette dictates that when passing, you should call out, “Passing left” to let people know that you are approaching and overtaking them. Strangely, both I and others have noticed that few cyclists actually call out when they pass. I have a bell on the bike so that I can alert other trail users when I am overtaking them from behind or approaching a blind corner. The bell can be heard from a distance and the sound is non-threatening. I typically ring the bell twice and call out (in my friendliest voice) “on your left, three riders”. I only pass where there is sufficient room so if I pass walkers and they edge over I try to tell them that there is “plenty of room”. My goal is not to get them to move over rather to keep them from moving into the passing lane.

The High Trestle Trail, Woodward to Madrid, Iowa

Jason, Jaylee, Josie (and Pop), Dave and Jan at the High Trestle Trail

The High Trestle Trail is a new bike trail that runs 25 miles from Woodward to Ankeny, Iowa. The highlight of the trail is the 13 story trestle bridge over the Des Moines River. This last weekend I took my wife and our three youngest to central Iowa to ride the trail. (My youngest brought her stuffed hippo — Pop)

We chose a perfect day, slight breeze, puffy clouds and temperatures in the low seventies. As a family we have a variety of riding abilities so I was not sure what to expect. I am an out-of-shape cyclist but I have years of experience and thousands of miles behind me. I was on my fixed-gear bike so I was not looking forward to any significant hills. My wife is relatively new to cycling and just getting accustomed to long rides. My son is an accomplished runner and my 12 year old daughter is a competitive swimmer, I knew they would have no trouble regardless of the terrain or distance. I was a bit concerned about my youngest. At ten, I had almost given up on ever teaching her how to ride a bike. This Spring she surprised me and a few weeks ago she learned how to ride. I put a basket on her bike for her hippo and now she rides daily. But this would be her longest ride.

The trailhead in Woodward is an old converted rail station. There is plenty of parking, restrooms water, bike racks and benches. The parking lot was pretty full several cyclists came and went as we unloaded the van. We got the bikes out, topped off the tires and I gave a brief trail etiquette lecture. We set off down the trail. It soon became apparent that the two older kids should be allowed to ride ahead on their own. My wife went on ahead with them and I rode with my youngest. She (and her hippo) had a great time. We listened to birds and talked the whole way. We re-grouped at the bridge and stopped to admire the view, it was spectacular.

We continued on to Madrid, 5.6 miles according to the sign. After having some ice cream we explored an exhibit to the coal mining industry. I know 11.2 miles is a short ride but we decided to turn around and head back. The ride was completely flat. The trail varied from open fields to wooded to the open expanse of the bridge.

Josie and Pop

As I was riding with my ten-year-old she asked to stop by the trail. I rang my bell and said stopping right … and she proceeded to cross the trail to stop on the left, when I told her I meant to stop on the right she crossed the trail again. I am so glad no one was coming by at the time (especially the triathletes in training who buzz by without announcing themselves) she definitely could have caused an accident. Once she was safely stopped I tried not to scold her but asked her what had happened. We had done a little trail riding at home so she should have known better. She said, “Daddy, sometimes I forget my right and left.”

It had never dawned on me. From then on I reminded her that we always stop on the side we are riding on, after announcing loudly, “Stopping!” and giving people around us time to react. I learned a good lesson, I will try to keep things simple.

The High Trestle Trail is a great family friendly ride. The portion we rode was flat but there are some mildly hilly sections. The bridge is spectacular and lit up at night.

The picture says it all, it is not often that my wife and I and our teen, tween and pre-teen (and her hippo) can all participate in an event and have big smiles on our faces. It was a perfect day.

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