Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Back in the saddle again

Well, shouldn't the expression really go, "backside in the saddle again"?  Or, to be even more precise, "backside on the saddle again."

Well, the commuter bicycle is in need of a new saddle methinks. I've started to notice lately that my rear begins hurting, even on my short commute. I also notice the saddle itself looks sort of deformed, like it's flattened out somehow. It's still the stock issue Takara saddle, probably 20 or more years old. I guess it is nearing the end of its life. It's a vinyl thing with the springs on the rear.

That has me thinking about investing in a good saddle. I've been looking online at the Brooks saddles. The $80.-$190 Brooks saddles. I know, right. I only paid $70. for the bike entire. It was used, or euphemistically "previously owned". I already paid more for the Schwalbe touring tires than that. The tires were so worth it. Some people at school like to ask about bicycles or riding or whatever. I invariably give them my unsolicited advice to invest in good tires. They want to argue with me and try to get by on what our LBS (Local Bike Shop: a.k.a. Wal-Mart) sells. I guess they don't trust my judgment on the issue. But, I'd like to point out since I've put them on two years ago, I've had zero problems.

I wonder how the best way to go about trying saddles is. I am against purchasing a new saddle, then trying it out to find out I don't like it. I am especially against it if the saddle costs as much as the Brooks. Plus, since it's a leather product, that would mean additional maintenance and care. I park my bike outside, in the rain and snow and sun. I know how to care for leather boots and shoes. I maintain a couple pairs of boots and a couple belts.

I'm leaning toward trying one of the saddle designs with the spring in front as well as the two in back. I'm a fan of upright riding position, but the website indicates these major comfort ones are for bikes whose handlebars are well above the saddle. I'll have to do some checking to confirm, but I think my handlebars are only slightly above my seat or nearly level with it. But, I'm looking for some comfort as I don't have any suspension on my bike.

Also, I'm thinking of getting a two pedestal kickstand. These kickstands prevent a bike from falling over at all. With my baskets full of backpack and books and whatever else, it makes my bike tend to fall over, even with my good kickstand down. It is a good kickstand as far as kickstands go. But, this one will keep it completely vertical no matter what the load. I found one that looks like a beast. Weighs in at two pounds! As if I need any more weight on that bike.

I'm also considering dropping my insurance and registration on my pickup this year. Perhaps even selling my pickup. If so, I could really use that money to finance some upgrades on my own bike and make some purchases to increase our family cycling experience.

Those are some plans. That's what's on my mind lately. Spring is right around the corner and among my chores I hope to be outside on my bike.

Keep on commuting by bike!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Blue Skies Smiling at Me

Hello there, this is the friendly voice and typing sounds of your mostest favoritest Midwest Bicycle Commuter blogger guy coming at you live, disturbing your peace and asking to borrow your ladder for a stunt I want to try off my roof. It seems like it's been such a  long time since I've sat down and let loose with the observations and complaints, so your "grace" period of MWBC free bliss is officially over! I'll venture to say I've made it through the worst of the riding conditions on my way to accomplish my goal of riding my bike to school each day I teach. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know.  Having a whole slew of snow days, which absolved me of my requirement to attend and therefore teach school, (which is only slightly different than when I am required to attend and yet do not teach, though I am required to, but that's another story) made meeting my goal significantly easier to obtain. I haven't yet actually made my goal because I still have a fourth quarter and a week of riding to class to make it.

However meandering and wayward appears to be my writing on the way to making one, my point is that the really crappy weather for my commute is in the past. I rode through the cold, which wasn't physically difficult as much as mentally challenging. Yes, leaving a warm, cozy house to enter the sharp, black cold of winter mornings with the knowledge I was about to mount a bicycle and be cold for a few minutes until my blood flowed, left me mentally challenged. You heard it here first.

The actual snow was physically challenging for my bike and me. The snow was the easiest. It became quite tough when that snow melted during the day and under traffic, then froze into all manner of dips and valleys which tried to change the direction of my bike against my will. I had to be especially wary and alert of vehicles during these times. I knew their stopping distances increase dramatically and I'd be in danger of vehicles unable to stop for me in time.

Well, this is not really related, but I found this video clip thanks to another blog I read. It has more to do with the attitudes people display toward cyclists on the road. It's sickening, I'll grant you, but you should watch it so you don't kid yourself that we live in some Sesame Street type of environment, where everyone respects each other and is kind, patient, etc. This is reality.

Stay safe out there. Make a goal of your own. Keep on commuting by bike!