Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Weakest Link

Not entirely unexpected, but I've had another mechanical hiccup. I'm beginning to think that I'm really too fat to ride a bike! I really don't know how I managed it, but my drive chain snapped yesterday. I was starting from a dead stop and using body weight to get going. A couple turns in I hear a creak - pop! Just that quick I nearly fall over because the pedal falls without any resistance, and then the chain gets wedged in the back wheel and causes it to lock up. Thankfully I didn't fall - the car behind me didn't seem very patient.

It was a shameful walk from the bus stop to the bike shop. Am I the only one who gets funny looks when walking my bicycle? Thankfully, the guy at the shop is reasonable and competent. A whole $15 bucks later I was back in business! I swear that they're too cheap on the labor ($5 for 20 minutes of work) but you won't hear me complain. My lovely wife and daughter met me there and we had a homemade dinner "out"! It made for a long evening but certainly not a bad evening.

Still, a broken chain is a bummer. And it got me thinking about spare parts. This is one of those things where someone can go overboard and bring too many things. Right now, I bring absolutely nothing. My reasoning behind this is that my bike route is close to the transit routes, so the farthest I'd have to walk is to the next bus stop. I'm curious what other people carry with them. A tube and pump seem like reasonable things to bring, but my pump isn't very portable. And I don't know that I'd want to do something like changing a tube on the side of the road.

For everyone out there, let me know what you bring with you in the comments. Not just parts, but riding gear, extra clothes, towels, bungee straps, anything!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I've been biking, really!

I know I've taken a small hiatus here, but to calm everyone's fears I have been diligent on the bike. I don't think I've used the van for getting to work for over a month now. I've started to get over the sore legs (and behind) to really enjoy the ride.

That said, I'm still quite slow - I average about 10 mph. That's about my cardiovascular limit for now. Slowly I'm increasing my distance, hoping that the required endurance will help with my overall ability (including speed). Just to be clear, my weight and general fitness haven't changed much, but I think a gradual improvement is more natural anyway. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Lastly, I'm linking to a video. Consider this my public service announcement.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ratcheting up for a letdown

After two successful days of getting around on two wheels I'm having mechanical problems. The ratcheting mechanism has gone out, so my bike is now an oversized scooter. I have to take it to the bike shop this weekend - and to think I thought the bike would need less maintenance! Hopefully it won't be too expensive.

I thought I'd share about my bike. It's a fairly stock 1998 Trek 820. Yeah, it's a mountain bike and I'm in the flatlands of south Florida. The only modifications I've made are skinnier tires for lower rolling resistance, lights, and a rack on the back. It was a deal on Craigslist at $30, or so I thought. There are some problems with it. The largest sprocket on the crankset is worn pretty bad, but I'm on the middle sprocket for now, so no big deal. The smaller sprockets on the freewheel are a little worn, but still usable. I figure a day will come when the whole drivetrain gets to be replaced. For now, though, I just want to get riding again.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Medical Disclaimers

I admit that I have, on occasion, watched and participated with various exercise videos. I distinctly remember them all starting with a clever bit of legaleze:
Before starting this or any exercise program, you should consult with your physician.
"What a bunch of hooey!" I thought, as my younger, slightly more nimble self decided to sweat to the oldies. Now, over a decade later, I completely understand what they were talking about.

Yesterday was my first time actually using my bike to get around. My total distance was about 3.5 miles (spread among 4 sessions). That's all it took for me to get:
  • a sore bottom
  • stiff legs
  • spaghetti arms
  • a headache
  • frustrated
Everybody has to start somewhere, but I figured I would have fared a bit better than all that. In total, that was about 30 minutes of riding (did I mention that I can't even go at a decent speed yet?). It took my complete and total disgust at this my performance for me to realize how truly out of shape I really am. Don't get me wrong, I'm not discouraged, quite the opposite, really. Rather, I'm mad at myself for letting my level of fitness slide so far into the pits.

So this morning, it was on the bike again. It will be a better day.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Lock(e) and Load

There's a couple things on my mind today. First, I'm a horrible person because I still haven't gotten on the bike this year. Unforgivable, I know. But I have a reasonable excuse - I don't have a bike lock! I did have one, but can't find it. So, being the Internet-savvy person that I am I start looking up reviews on bike locks and YouTube videos of them getting circumvented. I am so glad I lost my old one! The dinky cable-based thing I had with the circular key (probably not bic-safe) would have ended in disaster. So today I'm heading to the bike shop for a nice, heavy, secure U-lock. Not that my bike is anything great, but it would be a disaster to try to replace it. Or to get stuck somewhere without a set of wheels! I need to avoid bad days like that.

The other thing I'm thinking about is Lost. Oh MAN, it's less than a week away! I had been ignoring this show for a long time. My wife started watching it on the ABC website (free!). We ended up buying all the seasons on DVD (Blu-Ray was too expensive) and just finished watching the re-cap from Wednesday. I cannot wait to see what happened to....well....everything! If you're unfamiliar with the show, it's about a group of survivors of a plane crash on an isolated Pacific island. Well, at least that's how it starts. Then it's about the Others, the established inhabitants of the island. Then it's about the mysterious artifacts of the island. Then it's about the Dharma Initiative. Then it's about... OK, it gets crazy, no doubt. But it's awesome, and you have until Wednesday evening to catch up on 4 seasons' worth of J. J. Abrams goodness.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


No, not the TV show... though it does sound interesting. Note to self: add that show to the DVR schedule.

I'm talking about numbers in my real life. Here's just a few about me:
  • Age: 27 years
  • Height: 5' 9"
  • Weight: 235 pounds
  • BMI: 34.7 (Obese Class I)
  • waistline: 40"

Here are some others:
  • Distance to bus station: 1.6 Miles (each way)
  • Total Commute Distance: 19.1 Miles (each way)
  • Estimated mixed-mode commute time: 1.25 hours (each way)
  • Odometer on van: 160719 miles (on January 1st)
  • Checking account balance: $3.50 ± $5.00 (whoops)

What does it all mean? I honestly have no clue. I'd like to get the weight, BMI, and pants sizes to go down, with the minimal increase in Age. Height is best left to genetics (for now).

It also means that if I drove to the bus station every work day for a year that would equate to:
1.6 miles * (10 trips / week) * (50 weeks/year) = 800 miles
That's 800 miles if I never use the bike. That doesn't include other trips, of course, but gives an idea of a number I should stay below for the year. I sure wish my bike had an odometer. That would be handy, no? Too bad I'm not going to be getting a Cyclocomputer any time soon (see Checking account balance).

Where am I at with my gameplan? The bike is almost ready. There are still some minor preparations to be made, but its mostly "green light, go" on all items. I expect to be on the road tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Quick Hello!

OMG, it's an introductory post!

So, this isn't a "new year's resolution" per se, but the timing is right. Here's the plan:
  • Ride my bike to commute
  • Get healthier
  • Be happier
I could start with a whole bunch of little goals, but that sounds like work.

Why am I doing this? There's a few reasons. In case the title wasn't totally clear, I'm overweight. I want to live long enough to see my great-grandchildren. I want to look and feel better. I hate giving money for oil to groups overseas who don't like Americans. I hate paying to fix the car. And I'm cheap.

And so it starts. I really do have a bit of a plan. For now I'm doing a mixed-mode commuting by driving to the bus station (1.5 miles), riding the bus to the train (~13 miles), riding the train to the station nearest the office (~7 miles) then walking from the train station to the office (~1/4 mile). Step one will be replacing the driving and walking with bicycling. Step two is to gradually bicycle more and ride the bus less until the bus portion is eliminated. Step three is to gradually eliminate the train as well.

How long will all this take? I have NO idea. I've never been into exercise, health, training, or anything related to this. I'm doing and researching simultaneously - so I expect to make lots of mistakes. Hopefully none of these mistakes result in an injury (either from over-exertion or crazy drivers) and I stick with it until it isn't a project anymore and is a lifestyle.

Keep checking in, there's going to be a lot more to come.