|The Gunnar. The first and favorite.|
|The Neuvation. Vanity project.|
|No longer built, but, well, it is still around.|
|In a box ready for the next trip.|
|Ready for triathlon season 2015.|
|New, fast, and fun.|
One approach would be to add extraneous miles just to make the ride worth-while. Another would be to consider the shift to cycling to be more general: cycling to dinners out with friends, cycling to dr. appointments, even cycling to and from the airport.
Last week I took the plunge.
I'm riding the Neuvation, which has been sitting around, occasionally on the trainer but mostly leaning against the wall, since I built it.
|Neuvation F100, finally in daily service.|
I swapped the wheels for my old Ultegra 600 hoops, the pedals for eggbeater semi-platform (Candy Cs) pedals, and added a PBW taillight, a Serfas 500L headlamp, and a seat-stay pump for faster inflation. The bike looks sweet in shiny black and it rides smooth -- although it is not the snappy performer that the new Focus is.
Over the years I've acquired a good collection of commuting gear. I've become Showers Pass's dumping ground for clearance outerwear and in the cool fall weather I've been wearing a nice soft-shell with reflective accents on the fold-out tail flap. When it gets cold I have pants to match.
And I took the plunge on new shoes -- Giro has a great line of cycling shoes that look not unlike casual wear, including these "Republic Touring Shoes."
|Sweet. Almost hip.|
A few rides
|Coffee and wrap at Starbucks.|
|Riding to Butler U.|
My former colleague P__ invited me to a soccer game at Butler, where he now teaches. I left the condo at 7 pm and rode north on small roads through town, enjoying a rare night-ride when I wasn't already 200+ miles into the day. It turns out that while the major arteries through town are vaguely unpleasant, the smaller neighborhood roads are downright fun. It would be annoying if you were trying to get somewhere -- nobody likes cross-streets on a brevet -- but for a 5 mile trip north the jaunt through town was a nice diversion. Butler tied league rival Depaul, we went out for a beer, and I headed home around 11 pm, confident in the PBW taillight and increasingly so in the Serfas headlamp.
|Riding to Carmel, IN.|
The dean held a faculty social on Sunday. He lives in Carmel, 12 miles north up the Monon Trail before heading west for a few miles. With the cooler weather, I could even dress in khakis and a sweater without concern for unpleasant sweating. Or at least not that anybody was gauche enough to point out.
One day I decided to explore the extension of the White River bike trail south from town to its end at Harding and Raymond streets.
|White River Trail (from indianatrails.com)|
I had the trail to myself. It wasn't all perfection; on one stretch you get a strong stench of malts from a nearby brewery. On a short stretch you are aware that you are about to cross some waste-water effluence -- and a well-timed bunny hop is essential. But the good outweighed the industrial. Here was the view through the trees, east toward the river with the sun still low in the morning sky.
|Not a good bike commuting route.|
Note in addition to the three lands of traffic the double-exit lanes and lack of a shoulder. Remarkably, nobody honked, nobody tailgated, and nobody passed in ostentatious frustration. A yellow bus of kids comprised the only aggression, and that was aggressive waving.
After crossing Interstate 70, Harding turns to a quiet street through a run-down industrial hood. There was something poetic about the scenery.
|Cool old brick factory buildings.|
|Some restaurant. Wouldn't eat here but in the abstract I'm glad it exists.|
|The Rapha gentry might -- almost -- accept me.|
One last: back in DC I did a trip around Northwest over an hour or so on Saturday. Here's the Gunnar at my favorite cupcake-and-espresso store Sweet Teensy.
And with today we're into week 3. On the way into work I've made a semi-habit of following Washington Street across the White River, rounding the Zoo, and returning back east on New York to the law school; the rides on Washington and New York give me a few miles of high speed riding to get the day going. On the way home I'm checking out Indianapolis neighborhoods that were too far to walk but too near to drive. And I've discovered something intriguing.
|Indianapolis -- bicycle mecca?|
|Plans to have 35 microbrews?|
There is a huge bike commuting scene. The Monon Trail brings hundreds of commuters daily from the northern suburbs into downtown, where they park at the Indy Bike Hub, shower, and walk to work.
|Indoor parking, workout facility . . .|
And though it's 10 years late, there is a substantial fixie culture of would-be Brooklynites riding up and down my street -- Mass Ave -- at night.
We may be a few years late to be at the leading edge, but I'm a big fan of the Portlandification of Indianapolis. In contrast, DC is well ahead of that game but is not doing as well, suffering from poor road surfaces, a tad too much crowding, and too high of rents for the ironic crowd to live in town.
A few lessons and ruminations
Khakis or jeans with a gusseted crotch work just fine for riding as far as 30 miles or better. Roll up the legs and go. Jeans without a gusseted crotch get uncomfortable -- quickly.
Clip in shoes really are that much better. I started with loafers or tennies on platform pedals. Clipped in I rediscovered my track stand and the ability to beat a car off the line. In short, with clip-ins you are riding, while with platforms you are just commuting.
500L really will light up a dark road. Wow. It just won't do so for very long.
I wonder if I look ridiculously old when riding around town -- because it does make me feel young.
There is none! I realized one day while sprinting across the White River with the sun at my back and my lungs filled with cold air that I have always loved riding places. Together with Sam and S__ I grew up riding to school, to work, to swim practice; Sam and I both pulled the lawnmower around the neighborhood for a short-lived business venture behind the red Schwinn World. In college I rode to class, up, down, and around the obstacles on the Cornell campus, on a steel-framed hard-tail Novara mountain bike -- right up until it got stolen off of a college-town porch. Even in DC after first building the IRO fixed gear I played faux bike courier, dodging cars and pedestrians through downtown on the way to work or to meet a friend for a beer.
Somehow I lost touch with the sport and when I came back to it, riding was about spending all the daylight hours, and some of those after dark, covering as large a section of the map as I could. No dig on going long, of course, but when I found myself declining to sit astride a bike unless I could stay on for at least 25 miles I found it increasingly hard to ride at all.
Sam and I had a discussion over the summer about trying to ride daily for a month. I even targeted August as the month to try. I did not get even close. By contrast, I've been riding 6 days/week for the past two weeks and not even feeling like it is hard work. Total mileage may be on the low end, but I'm pleased at how easy it is to surmount the barrier to entry imposed by getting the bike off the rack and buckling a helmet.
|Google says 15 miles!|
I recommended to the Indianapolis airport that it install a safe bike-lock area in the garage and just today received this reply:
I'd like to increase my sphere of comfortable commuter travel. If the airport and the dean's house is possible, why not a ride 30 miles to Columbus, Indiana, to see the famous architecture; or 70 miles to Bloomington for a meeting or to catch a performance at the music school; 125 miles to Cincinnati to visit friends; or 180 miles to Chicago for the conference I attend each year in April?
I'd like to sort out the commute-to-nice-events problem. Will a jacket, tie, and shoes in the satchel do the trick? Any way to solve the problem of the goat-herd smell?
Grocery shopping? The obvious answer is a rack and panniers, but that kills the pleasure of riding. Micro-shopping with the shoulder satchel?
Riding in the dead of winter? People do it, but usually on fatbikes or cross-bikes with studded tires. Can I keep riding 25s on the Neuvation? Taking corners would probably be a slower process.
And once I get these worked out I'd like to see how long I can go without needing the car. Not planning to sell it any time soon, but think how cool not driving it would be.