Wednesday, April 30, 2008

High and Mighty

Temperature at departure = 54° F (12° C)

It was a beautiful morning and I decided to take the long way again. About 12 miles into the ride I became very philosophical as I realized I was looking around at my surroundings more and looking at the bike computer less. I mused to myself that the nice thing about riding this route for my commute a second time allowed me to focus less on figuring out where I was going and more on the things around me that I'd missed before -- like that tennis court and swimming pool. It was so weird that I didn't remember those from Monday. And then the path ended abruptly.

Yep, sometimes I am an idiot. I took a wrong turn and added an extra 0.7 miles to this morning's ride. Doofus. After getting back on track, and in keeping with last night's post, I shifted down to make it up this hill.

The camera is being held level and although it may not look like much, this hill is a challenge.

For those of you who occasionally use the Indian Creek Trail ... the detour I previewed a couple weeks ago will be opening in a few weeks. I got the following from the engineering firm that is working on the project:

"The bike/hike trail is scheduled to open once work is completed north of the noise walls in the area and the major work on the bridges over the trail, possibly within then next two weeks, depending on the weather; unfortunately more rain is in the forecast, which could slow progress. As of this morning, the contractor is placing sod along the trail and painting the noise walls."

Soon. Very soon.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

In Praise of Lower Gears

Recent changes to my routes have meant more hilly terrain during my rides. During this time I’ve used gear combinations which I have never used before. I should say that I never dared use before.

For some reason, over the last few decades I’ve come to think of using higher gears as the manly choice. Heaven forbid someone catch me slipping down to “granny gears.” Somehow, in my mind, I settled upon the idea that higher gears meant a better workout and lower gears were the wimpy way out. College Boulevard, just west of State Line, changed all of that.

View Larger Map

I’ve mentioned the hill a couple times in the last few weeks – 0.3 miles uphill with a 29% grade at one point. My first trip up that hill found me set in my ways and struggling to muscle out the climb. It wasn’t fun. During my second trip I down shifted and remember my inner monologue going something like “well, that’s why they made those gears…” I made it to the top of the hill quicker and with, seemingly, less effort. Sure, I was pedaling like a mad man, but my speedometer showed an increase of 1.5 MPH over the previous day’s hammer-fest.

Seeking to justify this change in attitude, I harnessed the power of the internet and searched for “Bicycle RPM Gears Fat Strength” and came up with some very interesting information. According to this wonderful article at, “Why fast pedaling makes cyclists more efficient,” higher pedaling speeds are more economical and burn more fat. High pedaling rates also preserve glycogen in fast-twitch muscle fibers, meaning more energy available during the closing moments of a race.

In one case the cyclists pedaled their bikes at 50 revolutions per minute (rpm) while using a high gear. In the second case, the athletes pedaled in a low gear at 100 rpm. The athletes were traveling at identical speeds in the two instances, so their leg-muscle contractions were quite forceful at 50 rpm and moderate -- but more frequent -- at 100 rpm.

As it turned out, the athletes' oxygen consumption rates were nearly identical in the two cases, and heart and breathing rates, total rate of power production, and blood lactate levels were also similar.

However, athletes broke down the carbohydrate in their muscles at a greater rate when the 50 rpm strategy was used, while the 100 rpm cadence produced a greater reliance on fat.

And then there’s Lance. The Wikipedia entry on Lance Armstrong mentions his riding style.

Armstrong has a low lactate threshold and can maintain a higher cadence (often 120 rpm) in a lower gear than his competitors, most noticeably in the time trials. This style is in direct contrast to previous champions (such as Jan Ullrich and Greg LeMond) who used a high gear and great strength to win time trials. It is believed that a high cadence results in less fatigue in the leg muscles than a lower cadence requiring more severe leg muscle contractions. Ultimately the cardiovascular system is worked to a greater extent with a high cadence than with a lower, more muscular cadence. Because the leg muscles are taxed less with a high cadence pedaling style, they recover faster, and the efforts can be sustained for longer periods of time. Armstrong dedicated a significant portion of his training to developing and maintaining a high cadence style.

So there it is, I’m going to embrace hill climbing and do my best to maintain my typical average MPH while using a lower gear for a few weeks to see if I notice a difference.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Some Bike News

Came across the following and thought I'd pass them along: has a nice article up discussing how riding up hills makes for a better workout. I typically try to plan my route to be as flat as I can make it ... but I agree that the ocassional hill is a nice change.

"It's a lot like skiing once you get into it," explained Undem. "There is a lot of technique."

Some highlights: Sit more upright in the bike saddle when you're climbing a hill. Don't pull your arms back too hard or too much when navigating the upward slope. And breathe deeply as you work.

One more tip for climbers that applies to all cyclists as they roll back outside this spring. Undem said too many recreational riders forget to drink water during the ride and eat something if they are going more than a hour nonstop. Sports nutritionist will suggest a snack and water is good idea some time in the hour before your ride.

And from the New York Times: It's All About the Bike

The article refers to the Strategic Plan for the New York City Department of Transportation 2008 and Beyond, which you can peruse HERE

New York's high density and flat terrain make it an ideal city for cycling. New York City DOT is creating safer bicycle facilities and more bicycle parking to protect existing cyclists and attract new ones. Based on our bicycle counts, we estimate that commuter cycling has grown by 77% between 2000 and 2007, but cycling still accounts for less than 1% of all commuter trips in New York City. Our goal is to double the number of bicycle commuters by 2015 and triple it by 2020.

To promote cycling, we will build 200 new lane-miles of bicycle facilities by 2009 and 15 miles of protected bike lanes by 2010. We will also work to ensure completion of the city’s 1,800 mile bicycle master plan and install 5,000 new CityRacks by 2011. We are also pursuing legislation that will require large commercial buildings to provide indoor bike parking. We are committed not just to quantity but also quality. Our innovative new designs for on-street protected bicycle lanes and high-visibility green painted lanes prevent double parking and promote more awareness of cyclists. We are also reclaiming street space for bicycle parking in heavily-cycled areas that need it the most.

Also in the plan:

o Test new lane designs, expand implementation of designs that work well
o Install 37 bicycle parking shelters by 2011.
o Conduct design competition to develop a new, better–looking CityRack.

Took the Long Way

Temperature at departure = 42° F (6° C)

If I were to take the direct route to my office, it would be a 3.7 mile ride in. I normally add an extra loop of the bike path to make my morning ride 6.1 miles. Not today.

It was a chilly morning, but the sun was shining and the cooler temperatures would mean less people on the Indian Creek Bike Path. The redbud trees are in bloom, as you can see below and, to be honest, I just needed to burn off some energy or stress or whatever.

This morning's route -- 24.3 miles. Feeling better.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

My Dad

That is Dad and me this last July 4th. My dad finally got to go home Tuesday morning. My brother and I were both with him when he slipped away, peacefully. I can't tell you how much I'm going to miss him.

We met with his pastor this morning and let him know that Dad's confirmation verse was Romans 12:21 "Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good." The pastor said "That was prophetic..." Yep. In fact, pastor has decided that he'll now always think of Romans 12 as Leonard's chapter. Read verses 9 through 21 and you'll get a good picture of my dad. Seriously, we started reading and checking things off the list.

Anyway, I hope you'll pardon me if I take a few more days off.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Way to go Atlanta

Temperature at departure = 64° F (18° C)

Some more quick news and I may be out for a few days.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution has an article featuring an East Atlanta bike co-op. Cool idea. "The head line reads: Non-profit bike shop gets cyclists in gear" In talking with the owner of my local bike shop, I sorta thought all bike shops were non-profit... I like the idea of being able to work on my bikes but not having to shell out for the expensive gear that it takes to do it right. I think I'd use a service like this, but don't see it happening in OP soon. The Atlanta shop is open 7-10 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and 2-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

SoPo Bicycle Co-op, a nonprofit bike shop and maintenance space in East Atlanta. In 12 hours each week, it offers bicycle education to daredevilish kids bored with TV, young adult commuters who can't afford cars, middle-aged parents remembering how to pedal and retirees who want a workout.

The AJC has a couple other articles today as well -- and good for them:

Bike tour gives riders closer look at Beltline

The inaugural Beltline Bike Tour, sponsored by the Atlanta Bicycle Campaign in cooperation with the Beltline Partnership, took cyclists on a journey stretching from a parking lot along North Avenue behind City Hall East, the future site of a Beltline park, to Rose Circle Park in the West End, where Beltline construction has already begun.

One of the largest public works projects in the city's history, the Beltline will follow old railroad rights of way and touch 45 neighborhoods. The corridor will include parks, trails, travel corridors and new and commercial development.


Of bicycles, tight pants and the distance between Savannah and the Capitol

...discusses Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle's participation in the Tour de Georgia, a from Tybee Island to Savannah which starts today.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Some Weekend Reading

Yesterday marked Des Moines' 21st Mayor's Annual Bike Ride for Trails with a choice of a 20 or 30 route through the streets of Des Moines. Proceeds from the event going to help support the city's recreational trails. Some nice pictures HERE.

The LA Times has posted their second in a series of articles on how to get a bike. Looks like they're keeping it cheap today...

The Bloomington Pantagraph site discusses a new state law designed to help motorists and bicyclists share roadways in Illinois more safely.

Anyway, off to church and then with temperatures in the seventies this afternoon I'll have to make a decision as to wheather I do yard work or take a 15 miles ride. Hmmmmm.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Just Under 4 Feet Wide

Temperature at departure = 60° F (16° C)

I understand and have grown accoustomed to warmer weather bringing more people out on the Indian Creek Trail, especially around parks, however it has been rare to see anyone use the little bridge that I've mentioned way too many times over the years. That part of the path just runs up to a road that services one office building and then stops. There is no recreational reason to use that section ... but, boy howdy, not an evening has gone by this week when there wasn't someone on the bridge or just exiting as I rolled up.

In the past, I've startled quite a few people on the main path by riding across this narrow bridge. I think it is because navigating the thing inspires awe. Well, that, or they may think anyone who rides across it must be crazy. Crazier still, I decided to ride it one handed this morning so I could take a quick video. It was my first attempt and I don't think I'm going to do this again, unless I get a Gorillla Pod or some other way to mount the camera so I can keep both hands on the handle bars.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Everyone Knows Its Windy

Temperature this morning 59° winds S 30 MPH gusting to 40 MPH. This evening 70°

Much like Dave, today was my first shorts day of the year. Finally.

I didn't even watch the morning news or listen to the forecast; I knew what the weather folk would be saying: Windy, so high profile vehicles need to watch out...

I didn't care, I rode anyway. The last three days I've been putting in ~22 miles a day in and didn't want to miss a sunny day when it looks like it might rain again Thursay and Friday. I will have to admit that the wind was strong. This is the first time I ever had to down shift going down hill.

Oh, and to the 4 cars that lined up in the furthest left, left-turn lane behind the big construction truck rather than behind me in the right, left-turn lane ... ha ha ha ha. I guess the joke was on you. The one brave soul who lined up behind me got a pretty good head start on you, didn't he? That driver and I got around the corner and I quickly got up to 37 MPH while the other cars plodded along. Took them .6 miles to catch up to me. Man, that hill on College Blvd from State Line to Mission is fun when you're headed down hill!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Bike Therapy

Temperature at departure = 29° F (-2° C)

I'm not looking for any sympathy, but I will lead off by saying last week was NOT a good week. Yesterday I was pretty much hanging in there by a thread. Even though I knew it would be cold this morning I packed up to ride today; bike riding days have been far and few between the last several weeks and even though I'm going to be riding about 4x my normal distance today ... I just needed to get out on the bike.

There are lots of reasons to ride your bike, most of them sound very altruistic ... but I do it, primarily, because I enjoy it. This morning's ride turned out to be just the therapy I needed. I'd chosen the route with the help of Google Maps Street View and had even test ridden the route Saturday before last. The first leg the route utilizes 5.5 miles of the Indian Creek and Turkey Creek paths and 4 miles in traffic, most of which is residential. There was one half mile stretch on east bound College Blvd. up to State Line that includes a 29% grade. Since my test run was on a Saturday I was running a little lighter and had less traffic to worry about so I ended up with an average MPH of 14.8. I was not in the mood to push myself this morning.

Other than the above mess on the path detour just west of Metcalf, the ride on the path was beautiful. In the 5.5 miles I rode I encountered two joggers, four deer and nothing else. I took my time. When I reached College Blvd. I forgave myself for riding up the sidewalk to State Line. Here's the deal: I would have been riding straight into the sun and am sure that the rush hour drivers coming up from behind would never see me. Rationalization? I don't care, in this case I felt it was better safe than sorry. Two cross walks and I was into the residential stretch. As I locked the bike up I realized that I'd been passed by one car, shared the path with two joggers and waited at a stop sign for one car turning left. Not bad for 8.5 miles during Monday morning rush hour. I also noticed that my average MPH was only 12.6. I didn't care, I feel better now than I have in a week. Don't know what the day will bring, but I'm ready to face it.

BTW: I am SO looking forward to the 29% DOWN grade during my lunch journey to the office. During the test ride I hit 35.5 MPH without any effort. I may put some effort in today and see if I can hit 40.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Boulder's Offers Ignored

I was ready to read another puff piece about bikes and Boulder until I actually read the article ... and then re-read it.

Boulder Colorado offers a $2,000 bicycle allowance for it's city manager, municipal judge and city attorney.

None of them are using it ... but it's offered.

Also, regarding the comment that Boulder "is the world headquarters of serious bicyclists" -- um, ever heard of Copenhagen?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Spoke Too Soon

Wouldn't you know ... on the way home they'd restored and fortified the Trail Closed barrier. Perhaps they just wanted to invite me to a soft opening. If so, thanks gang. Looking forward to the Grand Opening.

It's Open! (maybe)

Temperature at departure = 36° F (2° C)

This morning the Trail Closed sign at the Antioch bridge end of the long closed Indian Creek Trail path ... was moved off to the side.

Without hesitation, I headed down the path and was slowed about a third of the way down the hill by construction workers who are either working on the sound wall or doing some landscaping. The ding ding of my bell, a quick wave and "good morning" were met with some icy stares. No worries though as I sped off. A little further on to the west the path was awash in muck that had eroded down the hill, but if you slow down it is passable. Here is the west end of the trail before it runs under 435 on the way to Corporate Woods.

The Corporate Woods side of the path still has the fallen tree and Trail Closed signs, so it will be interesting to see if they are still there later today. If not, I am a patient man and am looking forward to the day I can blast down that hill unimpeded.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

I Don't Think So

The Guitar Bicycle is 16 feet (5 meters) high about 39 feet (12 meters) long. Although it would certainly be seen by motorists, I don't believe it would be a practical commuter bike.

The photo comes from China View.

No, this is not Guitar Ted.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

A Reflection on Me

I've recently lost all track of time, but a month or so ago Fritz linked to a cartoon featuring a guy riding in the snow saying "Saving the planet ... for my kids" as a car drove by with a kid in the window shouting "Hi Dad!" I had to print it and post it on my refrigerator in the continuing effort to make my kids roll their eyes. I meant to comment on it here back then, but time keeps on slippin'.

What was so wonderfully ironic was that it hadn't been more than a couple days since my daughter drove past me under similar circumstances. I took the opportunity to do a little research; I asked her if she could see me clearly from a distance and she said she could. When I asked her which of my lights or reflective gear did she notice first and the answer took me by surprise. "Your ankle straps." Seriously, these things were a stocking stuffer that my wife got me a couple Christmases ago so I'd stop using the small bungee cords I swiped from her. I liked the Velcro straps but never really thought about them as being particularly attention grabbing.

I know CAT got them from Amazon and the closest thing I see there now are these Reflective Ankle Straps which will set you back $6.76. Hey, every little bit helps when you're trying to be seen.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Progress on the Indian Creek Trail

Temperature at departure = 34° F (1° C)

A week ago this closed section of the Indian Creek Trail, at Antioch in Overland Park, was still a mess. I was happily surprised to see that they've been putting some serious effort into getting it open. Here are shots from this morning's commute with the obligatory shot of my bike (sorry Noah, I don't think I hit any of your ten points).

This section, which runs next to I-435, was closed on July 5, 2005.

If someone were to ride down the closed section of the trail on the other side they would see something like these (what I'm calling) "artist conceptions" of what the new section running under I-435 looks like.

They've even added lights and widened that part of the path.

I am eagerly awaiting the re-opening.