Monday, December 31, 2007

Q4 2007 Report

So here's the last one, October 1 to December 31, 2007. If you want to catch up on the whole saga, be sure to check out the Q1, Q2, and Q3 reports at your leisure.

My mileage goal for the year was 3650, and as of yesterday's ride, I'm at 3651. That's 901 for this quarter, the last 197 of which were in December on a big dorky mountain bike with studded tires and a really uncomfortable saddle (should have counted the December miles double.) Most of the rest of the remaining miles were on the Woodpecker and the Trucker, and a few on the road bike and the Xtrakoram.

Coming attractions include a Surly Big Dummy (on order, due in February), a long-overdue Electra Amsterdam review (no, I hadn't forgotten), hopefully some hub dynamo lighting information and a new sewing machine capable of stitching canvas for homemade bags.

Not much happened with gardening in the last few months. I did build a new raised bed in the back yard in October, which is now under a foot of snow.

As is our community garden space.

Not like it was in July:

I've been getting seed catalogs in the mail and am making a list for next spring. I think we're going to replace the pear tree with some berry bushes. Maybe gooseberry, honeyberry and everbearing raspberries. We'll see.

Made a perfect score on my Master Gardener exam, and have only to finish my volunteer hours.

1. Replace your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents. This is pretty much over with. I think we might replace a few more, but the existing arrangement, along with our new refrigerator, seems to be saving us quite a few kWh.

2. Retrofit your home for energy conservation. The insulation projects I'd talked about in previous quarterly reports have seen some progress. In the attic, we moved all the stored items downstairs for a day so I could tear up the decking and add more fiberglass. I also sealed around the chimney with RTV silicone and caulked the plumbing penetrations. Then I re-laid the decking and put the stored items back. We'll soon put the Christmas decorations back up and seal the hatch for the remainder of the winter.

For the third fall in a row, I dug down 4 feet along the outside of the foundation and added foam board insulation, clad above ground level with fiber cement board and stucco. This project is nearly complete.

Inside the foundation, I'm planning to finish adding foam insulation, steel studs, fiberglass insulation and drywall to the last 30 percent of walls that are still bare concrete block. I moved some plumbing last week in preparation for this project, and hope to have it completed by mid-February. The plan is then to get a chest freezer for some additional food storage.

The small cellar-like cold room I built in the basement for storing certain vegetables works okay, but isn't really cold enough in the fall to keep squash and the like from spoiling. Hmmmm.

3. Cut back on your gasoline consumption. We managed to put less than 8,000 miles on the car this year, down from an average of just over 11,000 per year.

4. Plant an organic vegetable garden. This went pretty well. We'll be moving to a new community garden plot next year. With the pear tree gone, there should be more sun available in the back yard for a bigger garden at home.

5. Compost your food waste. Made a lot of compost this year. Hope to blog the operation sometime this spring.

6. Take up a handicraft. I've been thinking about doing more woodworking. In my spare time.

11. Come up with some new resolutions for 2008. 'Nuf said.

So that's it for 2007. It was, all things considered, a pretty good year.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Last Ride of the Year

Went out yesterday afternoon for the last ride of the year. Thanks to the 32 inches of snow we've had so far this month (second-highest December since record keeping began, right after 35 inches in 2000) the streets are still a mess. Here we see a vehicle parked overnight pretty much right in the lane of traffic (click for big.) Wish I could say that this is an unusual occurance, but it's like this all over downtown Madison.

In spite of having full fenders and a big ol' mudflap on the Moose, it ended up with a coating of salt all over the drivetrain after about a mile. Time for a bath and some lube (chicka-chicka, bow-wow!)

I started out thinking I'd go about 4 miles, but ended up going all the way around Lake Monona. Here we are at the Olbrich Thai Pavilion. Went twelve and a half miles, for a December total of 203—all of it on this bike.

And here we are again at the Madison Brass Works sign. When I stopped to take this, I had forgotten that unlike my tires, my boots do not have studs. Fortunately, I fell onto a harmless snowbank.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Keep Yer Lousy Twenty Bucks

In other news, the Bicycle Commuter Act was stripped from the recently-passed federal energy bill. It would have offered a $240 tax incentive every 15 months to people who regularly commute by bicycle. This would have brought bike commuters some parity with other vehicular commuters (see below.)

Back in June, the resident Libertarian crackpot our local cycling list (actually, that would be an insult to Libertarians, so let's just call him a crackpot) had this to say:

If I read the last message [...] correctly, there might be a $20./mo tax benefit from riding a bike to work? As if that could be checked or enforced? But regardless, just think of the small percentage of American tax payers even able to take advantage of such a "special interest tax break"! Indeed, this isn't one to "big business"—"big farmers"—"big universities"—or other bignesses—but, folks, let's be consistent—this is an unfair special interest tax break under the guise of "social engineering."

Usually I know better than to feed the trolls, but I couldn't let the less-informed think that such was the case:

Perhaps you should familiarize yourself with the federal tax code. Other commuters already enjoy the benefit of tax breaks to cover the cost of commuting. Transit, vanpool and (drumroll, please) parking are already covered. And guess what's more? Their monthly benefits are far higher:

Up to $105/month for transit expenses;
Up to $105/month for vanpool expenses; and
Up to $205/month for parking at or near an employer’s worksite, or at a facility from which employee commutes via transit, vanpool, or carpool

Kinda makes 20 bucks a month seem paltry, doesn't it? This may indeed be "social engineering," but not really in the direction you were thinking.

And no need to take my word for any of this of course. Just Google Section 132(f) of the federal tax code or "Commuter Choice Tax Benefit," or check out this handy table.

Personally, I think tax breaks for bike commuting are every bit as worthy as those for transit, vanpooling, and even park-and-ride costs. Unfortunately, House Republicans were having none of it. According to Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA):

[...] Mr. Speaker, [this energy bill] gives a tax credit to people for riding their bikes to work. I am sorry, but gas prices and climate change aren't going to be fixed by making people ride their bikes to work. This isn't a plan to make America energy independent and to free us from foreign oil. It is just a dream for the political left in this country. And let me repeat, Mr. Speaker, it raises taxes, it is anti-nuclear and anti-dams, it forces people out of their cars, and gives tax credits for riding their bike to work.

I find it creepy that Doc somehow knew it's been my longstanding ambition to boot hardworking Americans out of their cars by day while cuddling and spooning Fidel by night. The Honorable Doc's collegue Rep. John Boner (R-OH) made similar claims in his speech on the house floor.

Maybe they're right. Maybe bicycle commuting won't solve America's energy problem. So if only we could harness the hot air they produce to generate electricity. Perhaps they could even reduce our carbon footprint by shoving lumps of coal up their puckered Republican pooholes and waiting for the inevitable diamonds to form. Talk about killing two birds with one stone— we could become energy independant, sequester untold tonnes of carbon, and become the world's leading diamond exporter.

The cruel irony here is that the Hummer loophole remains in the legislation:

[...] the bill failed to kill the special federal tax deduction for Hummers. And Yukons. And Suburbans. Any SUV big enough to get single-digit city mileage is deemed a work vehicle, and anyone smart enough to claim a business use (think real estate sales or a hair salon) gets a tax deduction for buying one, up to $100,000 (yes, you read that right).

So realtors and dentists can still write off their Escalades and Armadas. Good for them. What mystifies me is that the passage of this bill is somehow viewed as a victory by environmental groups. I just don't see it. Sure, there's an increase in CAFE Standards, but it's so modest that it's the moral equivalent of doing nothing.

By not owning a second car, I'm already saving way, way more than what the tax benefit would have offered. So the Feds can keep their crumbs as far as I'm concerned. The real lost opportunity in this is for bike shops, who might well have gained something in sales and service revenue. All the more reason to visit the LBS...

Friday, December 21, 2007


From the perspective of most folks, I'm sure the mere presence of snowflakes is enough to dissuade one from riding one's bicycle to work. Here's what it takes to dissuade me (from the Wisconsin DNR Air Quality listserv):

From: "DNR Air Quality Report"
Date: December 20, 2007 10:18:51 AM CST
Subject: Air Quality Advisory for Particle Pollution (Red)

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is issuing an Air Quality Advisory for Particle Pollution (Red) effective Thursday, December 20, 2007 10:16:53 AM through Friday, December 21, 2007 11:59:59 AM for Dane, Jefferson, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Racine and Waukesha counties.

The advisory is being issued because of persistent elevated levels of fine particles in the air. These fine particles come primarily from combustion sources, such as power plants, factories and other industrial sources, vehicle exhaust, and wood fires.

The Air Quality Index is currently in the red level, which is considered unhealthy for everyone, especially people with heart or lung disease including asthma, older adults and children. When a red advisory is issued for particle pollution, everyone should cut back or reschedule strenuous activities and people in sensitive groups should avoid any strenuous activity.

People with lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis, and heart disease should pay attention to car diac symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath or respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing and discomfort when taking a breath, and consult with their physician if they have concerns or are experiencing symptoms. Fine particle pollution deposits itself deep into the lungs and cannot easily be exhaled. People who are at risk are particularly vulnerable after several days of high particle pollution exposure.

To receive air quality advisories by e-mail, visit

There are several actions the public can take to reduce their contributions to this regional air quality problem:

  • Reduce driving when possible and don't leave vehicle engines idling.

  • Postpone activities that use small gasoline and diesel engines.

  • Minimize outdoor wood fires.

  • Conserve electricity.

For more ideas on how you can reduce your emissions today and every day visit: Do a little, save a lot!
For more information:

So I took the bus today.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Joy of Winter

We just keep pluggin' away.

Rake the roof...

one scoop at a time.

Wait for the one available street lane.

Share the truly multi-use path.

Grow another chincicle...

and wait for it to melt before parting ways with your balaclava.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More Snow

We got another 5 inches yesterday during the work day (I took the bus) for a grand total of about 12 since December 1. This of course with a generous helping of sleet and freezing rain thrown in. Fortunately, we did not get the freezing rain that much of the midwest got yesterday. What a mess.

Here's what it looks like when you don't use the car for a couple of snowy days. It's listing to port because we didn't get the driveway cleared well enough back on 12-2, and as I had mentioned in a previous post, that ended up being a one-way ticket to Screwsville. To the right we have one of the finest selections of snow-removal implements in town—4 shovels, 2 brooms and an ice chopper. Not pictured are the grain shovel and the pickaxe, but we've used those too (being careful not to damage the concrete with the pickaxe.) Tomorrow I'll be putting the roof rake together too. In the foreground to the left is the Moose, all set to make its cross-town run, which went pretty well today. The plows were out all night and the bike paths and streets were mostly a nice smooth hardpack.

Here's the cowpath leading back to the garage, made by the aforementioned grain shovel. We've given up on the rest of the driveway. Maybe next year.

Just one last comment on the Soglin thing. During the WIBA radio interview, he was asked why people ride in the snow. To this he replied with some hogwash about an excess of testosterone. Well, lemme tell ya Paul, the only thing an excess of testosterone is doing for me lately is to make the hair on my head migrate to just about every other part of my body. Time to start shopping for a better explaination, because I saw no fewer than six (count 'em, 6) female icebikers out there today.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

O Tannenbaum

This weekend provided an opportunity for the Babilonias to get a tree. Here's a pic of yours truly showing it the business end of a bow saw. Happy Holidays from my good side.

Friday, December 07, 2007

So Shoot Me

The weather continued to be lousy this week, but we had plenty of good entertainment to keep us warm. Tuesday night we got more snow, as I had mentioned was predicted in my previous post. Wednesday morning, I was cruising the Web over a cup of coffee and ran across something interesting on a blog written by former Madison mayor Paul Soglin:

The bicyclists who braved the week's second storm [Tuesday] should be taken out and shot. Spare them and the poor driver, when they skid on treacherous streets and slide under the wheels of a truck delivering fresh vegetables.

I will give them a pass on the first storm. Not because it was not forecasted (it was), but because every one gets a little giddy and reckless with the season's first major storm.

Now, I'm not really sure what Paul is up to here. At first, I was pretty pissed off that he would say something that stupid.

So I gave the hornet's nest a pretty swift kick.

I posted links to his blog to the local bicycle list (Bikies) and to the Icebike list, which is international. Paul soon found himself with plenty of hits and more than a couple of comments. The next day, he posted Part 2 in an attempt to defend the indefensible. Then, George Hesselberg from the Wisconsin State Journal somehow picked up on the fracas and ran an article titled "Soglin feeling heat from bikers". The Capital Times chimed in later in the day with another article titled "Former Madison mayor criticized for suggesting shooting cyclists"

But golly, I have to say my absolute favorite thing of all was the moment when the clock radio alarm went off this morning at 6:30, and the AM radio station we listen to had the whole bloody mess as it's top story, complete with an interview with a rather sleepy Paul. You could almost hear his beadhead over the airwaves! The missus thought I was sobbing, but I guess that's what choking back laughter so one could hear the radio sounds like. Seriously folks, was this a slow news day, or what? Maybe we just needed some comic relief from the lousy weather.

Later, I just had to sigh—I mean, check out what Madison's city engineer had to say about Soglin on the local e-mail list:

Paul Soglin was supportive of our efforts to keep the major bike paths operational (particularly the SW Bike Path) during the winter, although some of his immediate staff questioned the expenditures.

[Let's leave aside for a minute that the Southwest Bike Path didn't exist during either of Soglin's stints as mayor—I think the engineer may have been thinking of another path.] So bicycling in Madison improved during Soglin's tenure, and Soglin himself does do some riding. Cyclists do owe the guy some respect.

But "taken out and shot?"

I can respect anyone's God-given right to complain. Nobody wants to be inconvenienced during a snowstorm, so if somebody wants to call cyclists stupid or crazy, which some are, I can deal with that. But the suggestion of violence? What's that about?

Well, later on word on the street had it that was that the whole shooting thing was Soglin's idea of a joke in response to the arrest of a teacher over in Cudahy for comments he posted on a conservative site called Boots and Sabers.


That's what I said. You can read about the teacher thing here. I'm not sure I get the connection (if there is one) or why Soglin chose to exersize his free speech by suggesting cyclists should be shot. Perhaps we'll never know.

Okay, that's enough pixels for this one. Tempest in a teapot!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Weather Permitting

The Moose came out for this morning's commute, and it was a good thing too. Street conditions are as bad as I've ever seen them, even according to the guy in charge of plowing (and no shortage of grousing about it.) All the wet, heavy snow we got, followed by sleet and rain, has frozen into a rock-hard crust. Even a two-hundred-pounder like myself can walk right on top of the snow cover without breaking through. Those who did not finish with their snow removal duties (including the city of Madison and the University of Wisconsin) are in a real world of hurt. One would need an ice chopper at the least and would be better off with a sledghammer or pickaxe. Even then, there's the quarter-inch of ice underneath it all that has bonded to every paved surface in town, including most of the bicycle facilities. Even though the paths were plowed, we might be better off at this point using one of the UW's Zambonis to at least make them available for use with skates. With studded tires it was sketchy going, and I can hardly imagine going as far as I did without them.

The good news? Another three to six inches of powder on top of it all this afternoon into tonight.

Only 173 miles to go to get to 3650 for the year!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Schnowschtorm 2

Yesterday was an eerie repeat of last year's December first snowstorm, except that this year it fell on a Saturday. I didn't go to the farmer's market, but I did end up riding to my LBS to get a shim so I could put a 7-speed cassette on an 8-speed hub. Not easy going—see the photo of the bike path above. On top of that 3 inches of snow, we got an inch or two of sleet, followed by maybe a quarter- to half-inch of rain. Miserable shoveling. Can't wait until tonight, when temperatures are forecast to drop into the teens...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Fling it Now

Damn kids anyhow.

Passed last year's annual cycling mileage total today. Less than 400 miles to go to 3650.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Onward and Upward

I'm thinking maybe we will soon arrive at the end of Jerome a Paris' long countdown to a $100 barrel of crude:

"The oil market sentiment remains bullish ... there is an overall upward trend toward the $100 level," said Victor Shum, energy analyst with Purvin & Gertz in Singapore. "Meanwhile, we can expect extreme volatility where on the one hand some traders will take profit while others will buy back positions."

Global Insight energy analyst Simon Wardell was even more unequivocal.

"The run on $100 ... (a barrel) now seems inevitable," he said in a research note. "In the short term all eyes will be fixed on the U.S. government's Energy Information Administration ... inventory data."

Those figures to be released later Wednesday are expected to show crude supplies dropped last week. Analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires predict, on average, that crude oil inventories fell by 1.6 million barrels.

"The price rise is really driven by expectations of drawdowns in crude oil and distillate stocks inventories in the U.S. inventory report," said Shum. "Some cold weather reports out of the U.S. and Europe serve as a reminder that winter is coming and that there are still supply concerns."

This from a USA Today article that spares us any reference to the inflation-adjusted all-time record—thumbsucking platitudes like these from 2005:

Crude oil futures are about 50 percent above year ago levels, though still below the inflation-adjusted high above $90 a barrel reached in 1980 [...]
Oil prices are now 67 percent higher than a year ago, but still well below the inflation-adjusted high above $90 a barrel set in 1980.

Probably because prices are no longer well below the inflation-adjusted high, and according to an article about the IEA's 2007 report titled World Energy Outlook in this week's Time magazine, unlikely to go back down in the forseeable future. The New York Times ran an article today on the early effects the new pricing is having on global political and economic power structures. Both are interesting reading.

Meanwhile, we had our first hard freeze in Madison last night, down to 24 degrees. Leaves were dropping from the trees like snow this morning at sunup.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Portland Envy

(photo: Stuart Isett for The New York Times)

Today's New York Times includes an article and video segment titled The Business of Biking profiling Portland's bike culture. It's worth checking out for the commentary on bicycle culture and bicycle builders, though I had expected to see something about Clever Cycles, which strikes me as one of the most unique shops in the country.

As strong as Madison's bike culture is, Portland makes us look like pikers.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Great Moments in Bicycle Infrastructure History

So, here we are, cruising down Winnequah Road in Monona. Apparently, there must have been some kind of problem along this road with bicyclists exceeding the posted speed limit, because the City of Monona has installed some clever Bicycle Traffic Calming measures right here in the bike lane:

I'm pretty sure these were not there last year. There are about seven or eight of them over the course of a little over a half a mile, so I can only conclude that Monona's traffic engineering department had them put there on purpose. Either that or the contractor was playing a practical joke on the aforementioned department. Or on bicyclists. Or on motorists. Or on the property owners.

Okay, it's really hard to tell why they are there at all.

Fortunately, the individual cyclist is free to decide whether to veer right onto the terracotta-colored sidewalkish thing on the right or to swerve left, closer to adjacent traffic. But decide they must, or experience a nasty diversion-type fall.

I really hope those black marks on the curb are from car tires and not bike tires.

Ultimately though, it may have been cheaper for Monona to calm their savage bicycle traffic simply by making the parking lane too narrow to fit a parked car between the bike lane and the curb.

Oh, wait...

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Last Good Day of the Year

Saturday, November 3 was the last outdoor Dane County farmers' market of the season. So long until next year...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Lipstick on a Pig

(click for big, if you dare)

No, I don't really think of my Surly Long Haul Trucker as a pig. But then again, had I wanted a similar, but prettier bike, I suppose I would have gotten a Rivendell Atlantis. Speaking of pretty, I've wanted a pair of hammered Honjo fenders for a long, long time. So I finally broke down and ordered a pair of the extra-longs from Velo Orange. Chris has blogged the basics of the installation, but mine varies from that a bit.

Honjo Koken knows what they're doing, and the hardware is really cool. Unfortunately, the Daruma (fork crown eye bolt) wasn't long enough to give me the position I wanted, because the LHT has a lot of fender clearence. So I made this bracket from a piece of aluminum angle, and fitted a little gasket of UV-resistant rubber sheet underneath.

Here's a pic of the attachment to the boss on the underside of the Nitto M12 rack. Just a little aluminum spacer I got at the hardware store and an M5 cap screw. And a neoprene washer inside the fender and lots of anti-sieze.

Here they are working together.

And at the seatstay bridge, a little too much clearance again, so I added this little bracket. Normally it would be holding a mirror to the wall, but here it's had another hole drilled in it and spans the space between the bridge boss and the sliding bridge bracket on the fender.

Last but not least, a nylon spacer to hold the chainstay end of the fender away from the bridge. This one's not long enough, so I'm going substitute one that's about twice as long.

These things were expensive and took a long time to install, but I think they were worth it. Now, if I can just figure out why the front one is still rattling a little...

Wisconsin has Bicycle Funding Anemia

Wisconsin's Democratic governor Jim Doyle used a line-item veto to reduce $19.1 million in funding set aside for biking and pedestrian projects in the state budget to a mere $2.7 million. The Lost Albatross nails it:

For all the lip-service our public officials seem to pay to our bike and pedestrian friendly culture, more often it would appear that regular citizens are the ones who do the most to promote and sustain the culture.

The Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin responded to the governor's veto in a press release (a PDF):

"Wisconsin could be the national leader in biking and pedestrian facilities,” [executive director Jack] Hirt explained. Instead, Wisconsin ranks near the bottom in use of federal transportation dollars for bike and pedestrian purposes. “We want to convince the governor to work with us to make Wisconsin a better place to bicycle,” Hirt said.

Good luck Jack, because we're right at the bottom. According to a 2006 interview with his immediate predecessor:

'We've always ranked in the bottom five states nationally in funding transportation enhancements,' says Dar Ward, [former] executive director for the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin. 'It's getting worse.'

Apparently, Ward was right.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Crude oil prices set another record yesterday at $93.80 per barrel. Of course, this is the highest dollar amount, but not an all-time record when you adjust for inflation. That's been made clear in practically every news article written since oil began to rise in earnest in 2003. For example:

Despite the gains, the price of oil is still below inflation-adjusted highs hit in early 1980.

That phrase, or one like it, has been repeated ad nauseum for the last three years in the business section of any paper worth its salt. For the last couple of years, the record was quoted at something like $92 per barrel. Now we've come to parsing exactly what the record price was back then. CBC News:

While Wednesday's price level does amount to a new all-time high, analysts point out that when inflation is taken into account, it falls short of record ground.

During the oil supply shock that followed the Iranian revolution in 1979, inflation-adjusted oil prices rose to about $100 US a barrel level in 2007 dollars.

Reuters really gets into it, with a table comparing historical annual averages, adjusted for inflation:

The following table from the BP Statistical Review picks out key moments in oil market history. It gives average annual dollar-denominated oil prices in money of the day and the equivalent price in 2006 money. Prices are in dollars a barrel.

(I'm too lazy to reproduce the table here—you'll have to click over.)

I'm not sure what difference it makes. Whatever the record, we're in the neighborhood of it right now and that should be telling us something. Unlike in the past, where one could cite a specific event like the the Arab embargo in 1973 or the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the current increase seems to have crept up on us over the course of several years.

What does that mean?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Some Snaps

Did I mention that I make some artsy photos from time to time? I've started posting some of the older ones over on Flickr. Pretty soon I'll get around to posting some of the things I've been working on lately.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Before Photos

Whatever this Chimayo Backwoods (Backwoods Chimayo?) bike is, it seems pretty decent. The frame is lugged Tange double-butted CroMoly and it's got LX throughout. Sorta cuss-ugly as-is though. Maybe we can help it out with a better saddle and maybe some moustache bars.

It's got a combination of things I like, such as semi-horizontal dropouts (I have a Nexus 4-speed hub laced to a 700c rim I might try on), full rack and fender braze-ons, lowrider braze-ons, longish chainstays and gobs of tire and fender clearance.

The only catch is that it measures 61 cm and has rather little bb drop. This gives me a standover height just above hanging a nut on either side of the top tube, which is strange given that the Trucker is a 60cm and gives me plenty of clearance. We'll see how that works out.

King of the Road

Clearly, I am a man of means by no means. Two 25-pound bags of spent grounds from the local coffee house for my compost piles, some buckets coming back from the community garden plot and my newly-rebuilt wheel for the Tucker coming back from the shop. C'mon, let's all whistle the Sanford and Son theme song...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Name That Bike

Sorta like Name That Tune, but with less to go on:

It's a 700c lugged hybrid or touring frame with a unicrown fork, cantilever studs, semi-horizontal dropouts and an early Shimano LX silver drivetrain. That dark blue band on the top tube is its original medium blue.

Any idea who made it? Where it came from? Chimayo Backroads or Backroads Chimayo? I asked the Google and came up dry. More pics to come...

Hacking the Torch

A need came up on short notice a couple of weeks back to go someplace about an hour before sunup with the Trucker. Since most of the route was not lit, I decided this would be a good job for the dynamo wheel and Inoled 2 watt LED lamp from my Cross Check. Easy enough to move the wheel over, since they share the same rim diameter and width. I didn't really feel like using the Inofix mount to put it on the stem, and the Nitto front rack has an eyelet for a light anyway. The question was, how to attach the Inoled bracket?

There it was, right there in the parts bin. An extra downtube stop. (Not this one, one just like it.)

Turns out the adjuster threads are M5, just like the eyelet on the rack. Had to washer it out a bit to get the angle correct.

Then another M5 cap screw through from the back...

and a Nyloc nut on the front.

Then it was off to the races the next morning with the Inoled and a Planet Bike Beamer blinkie out front and two PB blinkies on the back. Madison is pretty quiet at 5:45 a.m. and dark too. I'd say the light was adequate for everything but fast descents. I rode through the Arboretum, which is pitch black, and it enabled me to see the deer in the road in plenty of time not to hit them.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Autumning Apart

In the final days of 2006, I set an arbitrary goal of riding a total of 3650 miles this year. So here we are on day 290 of 2007, and I'm 2950 miles into it, with November and December still to come. The math here dictates an average of 300 miles per month for both, which has not happened before. I find myself awkwardly rooting for global warming.

I also promised myself I wouldn't compare my mileage total with others', but Doug is over 6K, and Tex is at just under 2K. Guess that would put me somewhere in the middle if this were a representative sample, but I think I may just go back to not comparing.

On another, far more bizarre note, I saw my first three-wheeled, plug-in electric car on my way home tonight:

In general, I think electric cars are an okay idea, but I'm still not sure quite what to make of it. I'm leaning toward Bike Snob NYC's claim that cars this size should occupy a spot exactly one notch below bikes in the vehicular pecking order:

It is small. It is inexpensive. It gets excellent gas mileage. [volt mileage, or whatever] We’re supposed to admire it for these qualities. I don’t. As cyclists we’ve been bossed around by cars for too long. And like the Yorkshire terrier at the dog run who after constantly being terrorized by Rottweilers finally gets a chance to hump a Chihuahua, here at long last is a car we can intimidate and dominate. This car has a shorter wheelbase than a recumbent, the same passenger capacity as a tandem, and a curb weight lower than most people’s Rivendells.

This one is from Zapworld, which, as far as I can tell, is a toy company. I can hardly wait.

Monday, October 08, 2007


When I was a kid, my dad was a part-time antique dealer, so I ended up at a lot of auctions, including farm auctions. They were part treasure hunt, part social event and part occupation and I very much like going to auctions to this day. Funny that I never spent a lot of time thinking about who the sellers were.

Another thing I did as a kid was go to my aunt and uncle's dairy farm out in the Driftless (roughly 42°38'38.72"N, 89°53'36.99"W for you cartographic geeks.) I got to spend a week or two there each of a couple three consecutive summers, went along quite a few times with my dad when he'd go bowhunting on my uncle's land and of course spent a few Christmases and 4ths there too. I even did an overnight ride to the farm in the summer of 2005. It was a place that gave me an appreciation for what rural life, and family farming in particular, were about.

Well, the two crossed paths last Saturday.

The farm was originally settled in the late 19th century by my uncle's family, and he and his sister inherited it when their parents died in the 1990s. Both my uncle and my aunt (my dad's sister) worked the farm from the time they were married in 1968 until they stopped milking back in the late 90's. My uncle's knees and heart wouldn't tolerate the long hours and the stooping any more. They kept beef cattle and rented out land until a couple of months ago when my uncle's sister, as allowed by a provision in their parents' will, prompted them to either buy her share or sell. They couldn't afford to buy her half.

Their children—my cousins—all have regular jobs and live in urban areas, and none of them were much interested in taking over the farming operation or buying the place. This is not an indictment of my cousins. I think all of them have been able to read, as well or better than most of us, the writing on the wall with regard to what's happened to the family farm as an institution. To inherit one is to commit slow-motion financial suicide. The joke among small-time farmers goes like this:

Q: "How long do you plan to keep farming?"
A: "Oh, I suppose, until the money runs out."

I could comment on how or why this has been allowed to happen, but I think Wendell Berry has done it better in his books The Unsettling of America and What Are People For?, both of which I recommend. I could also comment on how we should be aware of where our food comes from, but there are also lots of localists and foodies, especially around here, that could do so more eloquently.

What was most interesting for me was seeing the auction process from the seller's side. All day I found myself hoping for higher prices instead of more bargains. All day I wondered where all the work, all the knowledge, all time and all the worry that went into that family farm were off to as it's implements were paid for and loaded onto conveyances headed in all different directions. I wonder, sometimes, how we've allowed the tradition and practice of something so basic as growing food to be so easily handed over to entropy.

The number of Americans engaged in the occupation of farming is at about 2 percent of our total population, and continues to decline. We continue to allow agriculture to be taken over by smaller and smaller numbers of larger and larger operations, whereupon it becomes agribusiness. Those large operations are dependant on fossil fuel inputs and a vast fossil-fuel-powered transportation network, all of which is very sensitive to fluctuations in fossil fuel prices. Maybe I'm just in a sour mood, but the trend in prices at the grocery store suggest that we may be headed in a direction we will sooner or later regret.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Bike the Barns Ride Reports

Apparently I wasn't the only one to go on blog this ride. More can be found at Newsomi, happy stuff and cardano. MACSAC's page has more too, including links to some local newspaper coverage.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

10-4, Good Buddy!

I've been meaning to write a little about my most-used bicycle, a 2004 Surly Long Haul Trucker. This is their full-on touring bike, and I was one of the first kids on my block to have one when it was introduced. Mine is a 60cm, which is the second-largest made. I have yet to do any overnight tours on it, but have used it for quite a few long day rides (like this one and this one) and a whole lot of commuting. It probably has about 5000 miles on it by now. More photos over in a Flickr set.

This is the second Surly I've bought as a frameset and built up as a mutt. It's got Specialized Dirt Drop bars (which I suspect are Nittos, but don't know for sure) and bar-end shifters, older Shimano medium-profile cantis, a forged XT crankset (salvaged from a bike my neighbor pulled out of Starkweather Creek), and the wheels from my 2001 Bianchi Volpe. That's a Brooks B17 standard from the days when Nashbar was closing them out at $50.

The racks are a couple of Nittos: an M12 on the front and a Campee (pictured without its lowriders) on the back. I also have a couple of Blackburn braze-on lowriders for the front, but I don't use them unless I'm carrying front panniers. I must confess that the M12 is mostly for decoration so far. Lately I've been using a Nitto uplift and Carradice longflap for commuting. Kind of a nice change from panniers.

This is one of my all-time favorite bikes. Surly got a lot of stuff right, even if some of it is borrowed from the design of the Rivendell Atlantis. It's a plush ride, noticeably slower steering than the Cross Check, rides great no-handed and bombs downhill like it's on rails. All the braze-ons a person could want plus the spare spoke holder. It's a little clunkier than my sport-touring Trek and it's prone to stiking pedals on the pavement in tight turns, but those are things one might well expect from a tourer.

Hoping to do a sub-24-hour-overnight or similar camping trip later this month. I'm thinking maybe Blue Mound or New Glarus Woods. I've got the itch.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Q3 2007 Report

Here we go again with the Quarterly: July 1 to September 30. (More sense can be made of this whole thing by checking out Q1 and Q2 first.)

2750 year to date, which makes it 1138 for this quarter. This is about as much as I have ever ridden in a 90-day period. Did four rides of more than sixty miles, blogged three of them here, here, and here. The other was the Wall of Death ride up to Roxbury tavern for blueberry pancakes on September 22 or so:

And on the return trip, the peloton could sense that I was gaining...

but never did let me catch them.

At the end of August there was also the 40-miler when I found the chain, the only other memorable moment of which was riding through this flooded parking lot to get onto a trail (click for big):

I also brought some lumber home from the lumberyard to build a shelf in the basement, but hey, seen one picture of an Xtracycle with lumber on it, you've seen 'em all.

Still trying to sell my albatross too, so if you know anybody who's looking.

And Trek held some international convention of dealers at the Monona Terrace here in Madison, for which they brought in a whole lotta bikes:

A whole lotta, lotta bikes. Those are all Trek Limes, the ones with the Shimano Coasting group. After these photos were taken, the dealers were invited to ride them a few blocks over to a kickball game. Or something. The whole thing might have had something to do with the new One World, Two Wheels thing that Trek started recently, though for this event the Trekkies were wearing t-shirts that had "Project ยต" logos on them. Google is ominously silent on this one, so go figure.

No idea what ultimately happened to all those bikes.


This was more difficult. A long dry spell in July (the Drought) was followed by a long wet spell in August (the Monsoon Season), which made gardening rather more difficult than the earlier part of the season. I'll also be losing my current community garden plot to a municipal construction project next season and starting over in a new location. This does not do wonders for one's motivation.

On the bright side, I am nearly done with the volunteer hours for my Master Gardener certification. I'm particularly taken with Arboriculture, which is a shame because I don't like to climb trees like our arborist did when he came in early September to trim up our 60-foot tall Catalpa tree. I found this to be really interesting, but not my cup of tea.

I planted lots of sneezy stuff like borage to benefit our ailing bee friends.

2. Retrofit your home for energy conservation.Insulating the last third of the outside of the foundation is well underway. Should be finished by the end of the month. Insulating the inside should happen over the winter. Hopefully will have time to insulate the attic a little more, and I think we'll caulk its hatch shut with removable caulk for this winter.

The CF bulbs and the new refrigerator have cut our electricity consumption from an average of just under 300 KWH per month to just over 200 KWH per month. Our new front-load washer and dryer should cut that further and save us a whole lot of water. We'll know more by Q4.

3. Cut back on your gasoline consumption.We upped our average monthly mileage, but we will still fall short of 5 digits for the year. The missus has been sticking pretty well to the cycling for all trips under 4 miles. As a family, it's not that unusual for us to be the only ones to show up for events on bikes, but that will change.

I'd like to comment on more, but I'm really tired of typing right now. The next post should return us to our regularly scheduled bikegeekery.