Hit by another car.

This morning while riding my bike home from my girlfriend’s house I was hit by an automobile. I was riding along a bicycle path and crossing the street at a red light when a car making a right turn decided it was his time to make the turn. When I proceeded to cross the street he was stopped so I figured it was safe to go. Luckily most of me had cleared his car when he hit me. He knocked my rear wheel about 4 feet into oncoming traffic. I didn’t go down on the ground. I was able to get up and move out of the intersection. as I approached his car to tell him I would split the difference and accept $100.00 for replacing my rear, he drove off and was gone. (Probably didn’t help that I yelled “@$$ hole” at him. You tend to lose any credibility when you yell obscenities at anyone)

As I stood there in awe that he could just drive off after hitting me, a giant 4-miles-to-the-gallon, off-road pickup/nature destroyer that was behind him pulled up and the redneck driving leaned out of the rig and told me I should keep off the road. Keep off the road? I was merely crossing the street. I didn’t know that if you buy a bicycle you are limited to only riding it in any areas where you don’t have to cross the street. Let’s see, that would limit me to a 500foot loop of sidewalk surrounding my townhouse. Sounds like fun.

As gas prices rise more and more people are supposedly supporting the bicycle cause. I don’t see it. I am getting the same response from cars that I get when I was commuting by bike from work to school in the city of Chicago 8 years ago which is that the roads meant only for cars I have people say to me “You ride your bike everywhere. That’s good more people should do it, especially with gas prices and the environment”, but the drivers on the road seem to have another attitude.

When it comes down to what the law is versus what will keep me alive, I will go with the safer route. Maybe at some point cyclist/driver laws will be more common knowledge but until then I’d rather not rely on the laws for safety. Unfortunately rules of the road don’t mean anything if others don’t follow them. But for all intents and purposes, at the beginning of 2008, the state of Illinois passed a law requiring all motor vehicles to allow a minimum of 3 feet between them and a cyclist when passing. Although this law doesn’t really apply to my predicament, I only mention it because although Illinois has this law. I don’t know of anyone who isn’t a cyclist that’s heard of it.

Bike Messengers get a bad rap from everyone for having attitudes, especially towards automobiles and pedestrians. Anyone who commutes by bicycle can probably see why. I’m always getting frustrated by cars. I’ve spit on cars, purposely scratched them, screamed into car windows at drivers, among other things and the one thing I can tell you is that it doesn’t do either me or the other person any good. All it does is ruin the rest of my ride and I am more apt to be agitated and run red lights, block traffic and put myself in harms way just because I am pissed off. It’s not worth it. Some people are just idiots.

So what can we do? When I was hit today, I can only hope other cars saw it. The more the better. Maybe it will remind people that there are more and more cyclists on the road and cars need to allow room for them to. There are safe ways to ride. I am always skeptical about riding on bike paths vs. riding on the road because although roads have more car traffic, a car can usually see you better if you are directly in their line of vision. Since I was riding on the path it is my responsibility to make sure drivers see me vs who has the right of way. I probably could should have waited till he acknowledged that I was crossing the street. When it comes down to a well protected car vs and out in the open cyclist, it doesn’t matter who has the right of way. If there is a collision I am likely to be greatly injured and the driver of the automobile is likely to not be touched.

Specialized Stumpjumper Upgraded

Just picked up my Stumpjumper Mountain Bike from the bike shop today. I was having some parts installed. This was an upgrade I initially planned when I purchased the bicycle in 2005.

Specialized Stumpjumper

First think I did was swap out the Shimano Hollowtech Crankset for a Truvativ Stylo Team Gigapipe with integrated Bottom Bracket. I use the Stylo Team on my Schwinn hardtail and it’s a great crank. It’s much stiffer that the hollowtech that came with the bike. And the integrated bottom bracket seems like it will be less trouble to keep clean.

Next, I had the shifters and rear derailer switched out. Originally I was running an XTR rear derailer with deore shifters. I never really got used to the trigger shifters. I’ve always preferred Sram’s higher end twist shifters over rapidfire. I put on new Sram X-0 shorty twist shifters and a X-O rear derailer. Again, I’ve come to rely on Sram products and their smooth shifting. I also like the fast that it is easier to skip-shift with the twist shifters. I can jump 3 rings In one twist as opposed to 3 pulls of the trigger on a trigger shifter. I’ve heard people talk about having problems with accidentally shifting when they are going over obstacles because they twist the handlebars. I’ve never had this happen in the 8+ years I’ve been riding twist shifters.

Last, I upgraded the brakes. I went from Avid V-Brakes to Avid BB7 Mechanical Disc Brakes. Initially I was planning on upgrading to Hydraulic Disc as opposed to Mechanical but from a cost-point, I decided I’d go with mechanical for now. I am running a 200mm rotor up front and a 160mm in the back (originally I installed 200mm rotors in front and back but I’ve since switched to the smaller rotor in back). I also switched out the brake levers to Avid SD Ti.

After picking up the bike I headed out to the local trail for a test run. I’ve been dying to get out to some singletrack this year. All my rides thus far this year have either been on street or crushed limestone so it was good to hit the dirt. It was a little muddy and the trails were still pretty soft from the recent rain and the cold weather we’ve had, but I was able to get in a decent ride. The bike feels great. I feel like I will still have to get used to the new components but from a first impression, I am happy with my upgrades. The Stylo Crank feels much stronger than the hollowtech. I don’t feel it creaking and flexing anymore. The Sram X-0 shifting is far more superior to my old XTR(2005 style)/Deore setup and the brakes took a little braking in but I feel like I have much more stopping power. Seems like the new components offer a pretty substantial weight difference as well.

Bicycle Review // SE Lager Fixed Gear

fixe.jpg

I purchased an SE Lager back in December and been riding it quite a bit. This is my first fixed gear bicycle and I greatly enjoy the feel of it. Originally I bought this bike for the purpose of commuting to work everyday and for going on rides with friends who tend to keep a slower pace than I am used to. But every time I am going to go for a ride whether it’s 5 miles or 40 miles, my fixed gear Lager has been my first choice for anything that isn’t dirt.

This past weekend I had my first long distance ride on the Lager at 60 miles. This is also the first time I’ve been back on a rigid fork in about 8 years as well. Although I am unable to coast with the Lager and almost all decent grade climbs require me to get out of the saddle, I really haven’t had any problems. The whole no coasting thing took me awhile to get used to but after spending December through February indoors on my rollers, I was ready to hit the streets. For the first few weeks of riding it was a pretty big adjustment getting used to pedaling through bumps in the street I would usually coast through. The steel frame seems to flex a bit over the bumps to dampen the blow though. Even on crushed limestone paths the Lager handles well. I am totally sold on fixed gear riding for road.

When I jumped back on my Mountain Bike with a suspension fork after riding the Lager every day for about 2 months, It also took some readjusting. for the first few miles coasting seemed totally foreign and almost unnatural. I also noticed that with the combination of a rigid fork and fixed gear when climbing I really throw my weight to the very front of the bike almost so that I am leaning over the handlebars. This climbing stance seems to allow me to apply a good amount of leg power to the cranks. Climbing in this position on my front suspension freewheel bike was almost impossible because I couldn’t get as much power out of the cranks and with all my weight forward, my fork was bobbing like crazy and absorbing most of my speed.

All in all I definitely think both freewheel and fixed have their place as well as rigid and suspended. I am extremely happy with the lager and I think for the price ($300-$400) you can’t go wrong. I am using a 46 tooth Origin 8 Track Crankset with 165mm arms in the front and a 17 tooth fixed cog in the back. Seems like a decent gear ratio that I feel comfortable with. I switched the tires out to Continental Contact 700cx28. The tires are a bit on the heavy side but thick enough to ride through glass. perfect for my commute, riding on the littered streets of downtown aurora, or the crushed limestone on the Illinois Prairie Path. I also changed out the saddle to an E3 Form Gel. It’s a decent low profile saddle that is reasonable priced and good enough for longer distance rides, without being too bulky and causing chafing like the SE saddle that came with the bike.

se-lager-02

Weblinx Moves // My New Commute

Weblinx Inc., where I work, has moved from 68 Main Street to 165 Kirkland Circle. We are still in Oswego so the move shouldn’t affect too many people. My office is almost double the size and came with some sweet 60’s Mod furniture.

My new bike route to work isn’t too bad. luckily there is a route that allows me to avoid the busier streets. My commute is much shorter now. before I was facing a 10 mile commute each way and now the commute is about 4 miles each way. While I’ll miss the long ride, there’s no excuse for me not to ride to work everyday.

My new commute

Mayor Daley on our side

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley recently proposed fines of $150-$500 for any motorist endangering the safety of cyclists on the road. Finally! I’ve been hit by cars in the city and It’s not fun. Most motorists that I know complain about cyclists taking up space on the road. I really don’t know what the problem is. Get a smaller car so you can share the road with bicycles you hummer driving espresso latte blue tooth…

>> Read Chicago Sun-Times Article

My Favorite Albums Released in 2007

List appears in no particular order

  • The Twilight Sad – Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters
  • Fennesz – Endless Summer
  • Brother Kite – Waiting for the time to be right
  • Rouge Wave – Asleep at Heaven’s Gate
  • Trembling Blue Stars – The Last Holy Writer
  • Film School – Hideout
  • The Sea and Cake – Everybody
  • Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
  • Pelican – City Of Echoes
  • The National – Boxer
  • Les Savy Fav – Let’s Stay Friends
  • Editors – An End Has A Start
  • Dragons – Here are the Roses
  • The Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes Are Dark Horses
  • Air – Pocket Symphony
  • LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver

Sheldon Brown Rest In Peace

Sheldon Brown – July 14, 1944 – February 3, 2008

sheldon2.jpgBicycle enthusiast and expert mechanic Sheldon Brown died of a heart attack on Sunday, February 3rd. Though I never met Sheldon Brown I’ve often consulted his website and articles for technical advice. Especially in terms of fixed-gear bikes. Sheldon was one of the most knowledgeable and well known bike mechanics out there.

>> Read Article on Bike Snob NYC

>> Sheldon Brown on Wikipedia

>> Sheldon at Harris Cyclery

First Dusting of Snow In Aurora

first snow in Aurora

Winter is here! Today I looked out my window and saw it was snowing. It’s just a dusting but enough to get me excited for the possibility of a decent winter. Last year I only go out on skis once due to a bum knee. I am hoping to do quite a bit more this year.

Winter Bike Training with rollers

For staying fit through winter, conditioning myself for ski season, and keeping stress down through excercise I use training rollers. Rollers are a great way to improve endurance and balance. Usually they cost anywhere between $100 to $400. I got these parabolic rollers from Performance Bicycle as a gift for my birthday a few years back. Usually I’ll try to ride 6 to 8 miles on the rollers every morning at an average speed between 18 and 20 miles per hour.

Rollers are tough to get used to. There is no coasting, once you stop pedaling the rollers stop and you’ll lose balance. there is enough resistance with the set of rollers that I have that I get a better workout per mile on rollers than on street riding. For the first year I used rollers I had to position them in between a doorway so I could hold myself up and keep my balance. Now I’ve gotten used to them and don’t need them in a doorway.

If your interested in trying rollers and your a mountain biker you’ll need to start by getting a set of slick tires. Knobby tires wont work with the rollers and even with slicks on, they are still pretty loud. I use my rollers upstairs in my spare bedroom with a dampening mat underneath them. I had to put a board on top of the mat because otherwise the rollers would rub on the carpet. I’d also recommend using platform pedals as opposed to clipless. I’ve used clipless with rollers and It can be a bit scary. It’ll be a bit difficult too with a suspension fork. I find rollers much easier on my track bike than on my front suspension mountain bike. I wouldn’t even attempt to ride them on my full suspension.

VisitNorway.com skiing game

Here’s a pretty cool online skiing game to waste time on.

> Play Trysil Twintip Skiing Game | digg story.

I’ve managed to waste quite a bit of time playing this game and getting stoked for the upcoming ski season. Hopefully we’ll have a good ski season and I’ll be able to get out more. Skiing and Cycling are my two favorite things, and last ski season, with a knee injury from biking and a shortage of funds, I was only able to get out once. This year I am hoping to rack up more days on skis.

Ardastra Gardens Zoo // Nassau, Bahamas

While we were vacationing in the Bahamas this summer, we experienced quite a bit of rain and weather that was not ideal for going to the beach. We decided that rather than sit on the boat all day or go to resorts and lose money to the slot machines, we’d go for a walk in the rain. The rain actually slowed down quite a bit and once outside of the port, our walk became quite interesting. The Bahamas isn’t as nice as you see in commercials, most of it is pretty run down, the public beaches have more trash on them than the Lake Michigan beaches in Chicago.

After walking for sometime we saw a sign for the Ardastra Gardens Zoo. We decided to check it out. It was actually the best zoo experience I’ve ever had. There were no crowds. Several of the animals including a pot-bellied pig and lots of flamingos were not even caged and free to walk throughout the zoo. Here are some pictures I shot on my Canon G7.

an angry parrot

tiger behind bars

curious george

sheep

a pink flamingo

meerkat

midget goat

Here is a brief Description of the zoo from their website:

Ardastra Gardens was first opened to the public in 1937. It was the brain child of Hedley Vivian Edwards, a Jamaican horticulturalist, who wanted to create a luscious garden here in the heart of Nassau. This was not an easy task as the area in those days was more of a marshland than a lush garden. He named it the Ardastra Gardens after the Jamaican defense force motto, Ardastra, which came from the latin, Ardua astrum, literally meaning “Striving for the stars”.

In the 1950’s flamingos in the Bahamas were nearly hunted to the point of extinction. The Government at that time brought flamingos to Ardastra Gardens as an experiment to try breeding them in captivity. The breeding was not very successful but the flamingos certainly became quite an attraction in the gardens. Mr. Edwards then decided to begin training the flamingos to do a march for his guests and they have been marching ever since. The flamingos were featured in the National Geographic magazine in the October 1957 issue as nobody had trained flamingos to be comfortable around people before and so people could come closer to the flamingos in Ardastra compared to anywhere else in the world.

Oro Grande to Tenderfoot

satelite view courtesy of Google Earth

This is a good intermediate ride. I’d say intermediate because of the elevation changes. If you are from the Midwest like me some of the climbs may be a bit more difficult to tackle. Start by heading up Landfill Road right across from Keystone Resort. Be watch out for big trucks heading up and down this road. Once at the top, go through the gates on the left and take the singletrack switchback that heads further up the mountain. This trail will eventually lead into the Oro Grande Trail.

The Oro Grande is a double track wide trail, smooth in some parts and rocky and jagged in others, with not much of an elevation change. From the Oro Grande you can get some great views of Lake Dillon. I believe if you stay on The Oro Grande Trail, it will join up with a few other trails and you can go as far as the Eisenhower Tunnel. It will also Branch off towards Silverthorne if you want to take the paved path back to Keystone.

After awhile on the Oro Grande, You’ll see a trailhead for the Tenderfoot Trail on the right side which switchbacks all the way up tenderfoot mountain. I am not sure if this trail is open to bikes or not. There are no signs posted which prohibit bikes and after doing some research I haven’t been able to find a definitive answer. But when I was there I headed up the trail. My Map image of the Tenderfoot Trail May not be very accurate but it gives a general idea of the trail. This trail weaves in and out of the woods as it switchbacks up Tenderfoot Mountain. It’s a pretty steep trail and can be difficult. I heard some loud thunder and didn’t want to get stuck out there in the rain so I headed back. The Downhill part was really sweet. Next time I’m out there I am going to try and make it further up Tenderfoot Mountain, as well as explore some of the trails that branch off Oro Grande.

Keystone to Breck

satelite view courtesy of Google Earth

This summer my brother and I found a good bike route from Keystone to Breckenridge. What was planned as a quick warm up ended up being a pretty exhausting long ride. Us Midwesterners are not used to the Colorado climbs.

Our ride started up Keystone Gulch road right outside the condo. After about 3.5 miles of a slow but steady incline, somewhere right around the base of the Outback, we switched over to the West Ridge. The West Ridge is an uphill battle on an old logging road. It switches back and forth and the elevation change is pretty rapid…

We had intended on taking the West Ridge Loop back around into Keystone Gulch Road and taking that back down to the base of the mountain but somehow we ended up on the Colorado Trail…

It was a great ride down but once we got to the bottom…

We realized we’d ended up in Breckenridge. We were to tired to backtrack uphill and head back that way so we decided to head out towards Frisco. By the time we reached Frisco it started raining so we took the Summit Stage back to the Condo at Keystone. Next year I am bringing a GPS for sure.

Keystone Bike Park

Images courtesy of keystone resort

This summer me and my brother had the opportunity to ride the lifts at Keystone Mountain and experience some of their trails. It’s great to be able to take the chair up to the top of the mountain. Most of the trails cut across the mountain and run a decent length. On average it took us about a half hour to get down to the bottom. by the end of the day our arms and the palms of our hands were sore from the vibration of absorbing the terrain while going downhill, even with suspension and gloves. It is a bit intimidating riding at keystone because everyone is dressed in full-face helmets, body armor and their bikes look more like motorcycles without the motor. We avoided most of the freeride terrain and stuck to riding the xc trails which were crazy enough.

Here’s a few pics of from the lift and a few of us riding.

I made a new friend yesterday

Yesterday when I was Bike riding along the Illinois Prairie Path I met up with this guy near west chicago. This is probably the third big turtle I’ve seen on the path in the past year. These guys like to come right out in the middle of the path and just bake in the sun. This one seemed friendly enough for a few photos.

Turtle on the IPP

Turtle on the IPP

Recycling around the Office

I’ve made an attempt to start a recycling program at work. At my last job I was pretty much put in charge of getting people to recycle and my duties consisted of supplying everyone with a cardboard bin for their paper and extra bins in the lunch room for their recyclables. At Weblinx, so far we have one main box up front in which we store our plastic and paper. I keep a cardboard box under my desk to put used paper in. Rather than putting this paper in the recycling bin, I am hoping to re-use it as scrap paper or to print my project reports on. Recycling paper can cost money and energy. If I am able to reuse it again before recycling it then that is ultimatly better. It’s better to use less than to just figure “oh well I am recycling so it doesn’t matter how much I use” We should be creating less waste, whether it is recyclable waste or non-recyclable.

Commuting to Work

Image courtesy of google eartrh

I’ve been commuting to work by bicycle in an effort to stay fit for mountain biking. I’ve got a pretty good 10 mile home-to-work route figured out. I am blessed because about 8 of the 10 miles is on paved bike paths. I live about 2 miles from the Virgil Gilman Trail in Aurora. From the Gilman Trail, I meet up with the Fox River trail and take that all the way into downtown Oswego where I work. I try to ride as much as I can. Most weeks I am able to commute every day unless I have meetings outside of the office.

Some Essential Gear for Commuting:

Strong Non-knobby Tires
tiresBoth my bikes are mountain bikes so purchasing a set of street tires was important. I managed to pick up a pair of slick tires from Performance pretty cheap when I bought my rollers for winter training. I was able to use those although they aren’t quite strong enough to handle some of the terrain. Although my commute is primarily on paved bike paths, there are sections of the path which can be torn up or covered by fallen branches, or broken glass. It’s good to have a thicker tire to avoid punctures, however, a traditional mountain bike tire has too much rolling resistance. I have a pair of Michelin Dry XC tires that aren’t too knobby, however after riding everyday they can wear down pretty quick. I’d prefer a tire like the Continental Town and Country as soon as I can find a pair of them on sale. Although next year I might pickup a cheap beater road bike for commuting.

A Bell
bike bellThat’s right, your friends will laugh at you but who cares. When I ride the paths in the morning through Aurora I pass plenty of people who don’t speak much English, or others who just don’t understand the meaning of “On your Left!” With a bell I am able to announce that I am coming without speaking.

Platform Pedals
bike bellTypically when I ride I prefer clipless pedals, however I hate wearing my bike shoes at work all day and there isn’t enough room in my messenger bag for an extra pair of shoes. I was able to get a decent pair of platform pedals pretty cheap from Blue Sky Cycling and they’ve been great.

Messenger Bag
a few years back for my birthday, my girlfriend bought me a Timbuk2 messenger bag. This has been a commuting must have for me. Timbuk2 bags are great because they also have a support strap which goes across your chest as opposed to just the shoulder strap. I can clip on a reflector light and I have enough room inside the bag to fit a folder with my work papers, my breakfast and lunch for the day, and a dry shirt and pants for changing into once I get to work.

Deodorant
This is another necessity. If you are going to be riding to work you have to take others into account. I work up a pretty good sweat when I ride whether it’s 90 degrees of 40 degrees, and my co-workers shouldn’t have to deal with my sweat. I always keep deodorant at work.

Bike tools, Pump, spare tube or patches
When you ride every day, your bound to get a flat every once-in-awhile. It’s important to have the right tools to make a repair or fix a flat quickly so you’re not late for work.

Tunes
When I ride singletrack I am a purist and the sound of my tires on the dirt and that of the trees in the wind is enough for me. However when I am riding to work, I find I can ride faster with tunes. I always keep the volume low so I am able to hear cars and people over the sound of the music. I have a wired remote which I can clip to my shirt near my neck so I can change song or volume level on my ipod without digging it out of my back pocket.

Weblinx Website Redesign

We recently updated our company website for the summer 2007 season. I had quite a bit to do with the graphics and flash animation for our new site. As before, the site has both a daytime version and a night time version (the night time version appears after 7pm). We also decided to continue to do a hybrid flash/html site. Since we rely heavily on Search Engines marketing, we thought this would be best. I am hoping to submit this site for awards as soon as we have everything fully functional.

>> Check out our new Weblinx Site.

Fonetica – Basso Continuo Download

I’m posting a free download of the Album “Basso Continuo” that I recorded with Alex Karwatowicz back in 1997. This album was originally released under futura records but since it’s 10 years old I’ve decided to post it as a free download. Both Alex and I have come along way musically since then. Also the software and hardware we were using was very primitive compared to today’s equipment and software. Most of the sequencing was done using midi outboard gear and analog equipment. Feel free to share this album with friends and post your thoughts on this thread.

>> Download Album (90mb) (right click and select “save as”)