Friday, November 27, 2009
The airlines have screwed it up, though. They've started charging to check even the first bag. If I don't have to spend money on something, I won't, so now I try to limit myself to one checked bag, containing my toiletries. It occurred to me yesterday that that's actually kind of dumb. I typically only travel with tooth paste and shaving gel. Those are $5 items, so if I bought a new tube of toothpaste and a new can of shaving gel every time I flew, I'd come out $5 ahead on a $15 bag fee. Of course, I usually fly round trips. If I leave my toothpaste and shaving gel at home, rather than getting them confiscated or something, I only buy them once per two flights, and come out $20 ahead. My mother made a "tooth paste in every port" joke that points out that a lot of the time, we don't fly to a new place each time. So realistically, I don't even have to re-buy those products on every trip.
The point of all that being that I can save $15/flight if I stop checking my bag. The carryon policy is open to a lot of abuse - you can easily roll up to the jetway with a bag that's a little bigger than the specifications, and there's no specific size given for the "personal" item. I sometimes carry my messenger bag, which has a capacity of over 2000in3. Between my ginormous messenger bag or a large backpack and my rolling bag, I'm well over the amount of volume that each passenger can carry on the plane and fit into the overhead bins. And the airlines are essentially paying people $15/head to do this on every flight.
I know that planes are sometimes delayed because people have trouble fitting all their luggage, have to check things from the jetway at the last minute, etc. And airports have some pretty restrictive rules about when planes can be on the runways to keep them from getting to close to each other, so those delays can snowball into bigger delays if the planes miss their spots or the departure times get bunched. Schedules are pretty tight, so those delays can send ripples throughout the system and cause more delays, or force the airlines to program more slack into their schedules and get less travel out of each plane. I think that all of that has to be costing money. I want to know (actually I don't care, it's more rhetorical) if the $15 that some rules-following people are paying for their first bag is enough to cover the cost of that stupidity. I suspect it would make more sense to encourage people to check their bags rather than carrying them on and having a melee in the cabin about who gets bin space.
Anyway, now that I've thought more about the issue of re-buying toiletries on every trip, or finding some 3oz containers to keep for travel only, I'm going to be one more person making it harder for the plane to take off on time with excess carryon baggage. And the airlines are going to be paying me to do that.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
|Week Ending||Goal (Hours)|
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
I would consider a road bike with 700c rims and an 8-speed cassette to be a pretty kickass buy because almost all the parts on it are in current production and easily replaced and the dropout spacing should match the current standard. I wouldn't worry too much about 27" rims, as long as they're alloy, or a 5-7 speed freewheel.
Unless the bike is steel, you're committed to keeping the same dropout spacing. That means you can't upgrade less than an 8-speed cassette to a modern drivetrain. Steel bikes can be respaced. Also watch out for stem shifters and "suicide" brake levers. Stem shifters are very awkward to use and point at your groin, so you may run into them climbing out of the saddle, crashing, or straddling your bike at an intersection. Suicide brake levers don't have enough mechanical advantage to apply much force at the brake and reduce the throw of the brake levers, which can make the brakes harder to tune so they work. Some 27" rims were made out of steel. Braking performance on a rainy day sucks - it takes a few revolutions to dry the rim enough for the brakes to work, and you may already have rear-ended a bus by the time that happens (didn't quite happen to me, but it was terrifying.) Some steel rims didn't have a hooked bead seat, preventing the use of high-pressure tires. But you shouldn't buy a bike with steel rims in the first place.
The compatibility and similarity in performance of 80's and early-90's bikes with today's gear is surprising. Without the rack and wire baskets, my cheap mid-80's aluminum commuter weighs less than my nice '99 steel road bike. But the resale value sucks, so you can pick them up for cheap and they're relatively unlikely to get stolen.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Riding a bike to work has been a bit of a surprise. It's nice to have an extra jolt of energy to start up the day. It's also good to spend a little bit of time interacting with the outside world on the way there and the way back, even if I don't spend any other time doing so. I like that I'm getting some exercise, but maybe it's too bad that it's replacing that time with no worries. Instead, I'm worried about getting to work on time instead of letting my thoughts drift as in a long run. It's not meditative. Too many cars, lights, stuff going on. Sometimes it feels like driving slowly, sometimes like running quickly. Downhill and uphill, respectively.
Monday, September 14, 2009
This picture is another of my favorites from the set that Adella and her friend Dan took. In general, ordinary color photos are hers and the infrared ones are his.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Thursday, September 03, 2009
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
And this is the bike in its curent configuration. A new stem could be a near-future item, since they're available in a bin for $10 each at one of my local shops. I'd also like to put on new brakes, with larger brake pads and a choice of compound, because the current brakes don't always survive the whole length of a muddy race. Also, the brakes I'd like are self-adjusting. After that, a new wheelset would drop a ton of weight and help the rear tire sit a little better. Beyond that, I don't see the utility of putting on a nicer rear derailleur unless I wear out the current one so the bike would be maintenance-only.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
And this is from a 'B' race in March, when I was thinking about not fixing my suspension fork.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
I went to a race near Bellingham yesterday. It was really hard. Bellingham is about 90 miles north of Seattle. I spent the night there the night before, so on race day all I had to do was drive a few miles to the race, which I ended up having some difficulty finding, check in, pre-ride and race.
Checking in was a little bit of a pain because there wasn’t a separate line for pre-registered riders. I love that line. Then I had some trouble figuring out where the course was, so I started my pre-ride several minutes after I’d planned to, and barely finished it in time to get to the staging area for my start. I’m still glad I did the pre-ride, though. I learned that the course was really, really difficult. A lap was 3.2 miles, according to the race promoter, with 650' feet of climbing and some really tricky descending. That makes it comparable to my "hills" route in terms of feet of climbing per miles, except off-road. There were a couple of spots that I didn’t think I could climb mounted, and ran instead, and there was one section I didn’t think I could descend, and ran instead.
“Running” is a very positive way to describe what it’s like to go down something on foot that’s too difficult to descend on a bike – usually it’s easier to get down something weird on the bike. This particular section had three lines, of which I spotted two. The straight one required getting over an off-camber thing that I thought would make me skid and hit a tree. The next line going to the left required turning on the off-camber thing immediately after dropping off a root, and I wasn’t confident that I could do that either.
During my pre-ride, I felt like my rear tire was a little too soft. When I got to the start area, it was 11:29 and my start was at 11:34 I saw that the women starting in the 11:30 start hadn’t gone yet, so I figured I had enough time to top it up before my wave. I was right, barely. I borrowed a floor pump and put a few extra pounds in my rear tire just in time to run back to the staging area, drop my bike in the pile of bikes belonging to 19-34 Sport Men, and join the other riders.
We did a LeMans start, which means all the bikes went in a staging area and we started about fifty yards away from them and had to run to them when the race started. Just getting through one lap on yesterday’s course was difficult for me, so I decided to do the race pretty conservatively, to make sure I could complete it. I didn’t run very hard during the start, and I allowed a ton of passes during the rolling section before the first steep climb. I passed a few people too, but anyone I pass during those initial miles really shouldn’t be in front of me in the first place, in my opinion.
Things started to stretch out a lot when we started climbing. I passed a fair number of people, and got passed by a few. Some of them gained their spots back when the course flattened out a little bit, briefly, and I allowed some more passes on the descent, where I’m really not that strong. One of the things that I enjoyed about this course was that I saw a lot of the people who passed me on the descents again as soon as the course turned upward. I didn’t necessarily pass them right away – that section of the course didn’t have long climbs, but they were super-steep, including two of the portions I ran instead of riding. I think it cost me less to get up that stuff than a lot of guys, and I did run past a few people, as well as maintaining my place running among riders who stayed mounted. I used to think I wanted the next cassette on my mountain bike to be geared the same, or even higher, but now I’m inclined to get something geared a little lower – the climbs were long, loose and steep, and I couldn't always maintain a fast cadence in the gear I had.
Around lap 2, some of the fast guys from the 35-44 and singlespeed classes passed me. Some time during lap 3, the faster part of the 35-44 field did, although I think I only saw one or two singlespeed riders. I also started passing women and Clydesdales during lap 3. The Clydesdales looked like they were really hurting – the total weight of me and my mountain bike is probably about 165 pounds, maybe a little less with some of the fancier bits I’ve put on mine since purchasing it. To race Clydesdale, the rider has to weigh 200 pounds before even adding the bike, water, and any gear. I don’t know if I could get that much weight up the climb, but they do have higher power outputs than me.
During the third lap, I allowed a pass before the downhill section I never figured out. Both riders hooked sharply to the left and dropped off a root onto the section I’d been running. That line never occurred to me, and I was mad at myself for not seeing it – I think it was a way to do the descent that I could have done safely and consistently. I resolved to do it that way on the fourth lap.
The race was four laps, so on an easier course I’d probably start thinking about where I wanted to start attacking some time during the third lap. I actually had that thought yesterday, but by the time I finished the climbing at the end of the lower portion of the course, I dismissed the idea. The fourth lap found me struggling in lower gears than I was using in the second and third laps. I made mistakes in some of the technical sections, and decided long before I saw the hard descending section that I wasn’t going to try to do it. Attempting something at the end of the race that I couldn’t do fresh is pretty egotistical even for me, and I didn’t want to get hurt.
Surprisingly, I found I still had some energy to burn when I got to the last climb, so I did it fairly quickly, and then shifted into my big chainring and started going as fast as I could on the last descent, which was gently rolling and had banked curves. I threw a little gravel around on the last chicane and then got into my best tuck and spun my way to the last corner, then sprinted the last forty yards to the finish. I hear there was nobody near me, but I can’t always tell when I’m racing and after almost losing a win to thinking I was alone, I try to sprint all my finishes.
I came in eleventh. I’m not sure how many people were in my field, so I’m not sure how good that is, but I think it puts me at least in the top half. I’ve been finishing most of my races this season in the top half or top third, so I’m pretty happy with that result, although it would have been cool to make the top ten.
I used to think that cyclocross races were the hardest thing I do on my bike on purpose. This race had moments as intense as racing cyclocross, but it lasted about two hours. It's now the single hardest thing I’ve ever done on a bike on purpose, although I didn't feel quite as destroyed at the end as after my first cyclocross race back in college.