Stranded

I’ve really enjoyed riding my bike in the cold weather the past couple days.  I love the cold air in my lungs!

Here’s what happened on the way home, though.  I was just be-bopping along like I always do when the pedals just jammed up.  That’s never a good sign.  I look down at the chain and realize I’ve got a problem.  I was riding my snow bike (a mistake since the snow is pretty much gone….), which is notoriously poorly maintained.
Long story short, my chain snapped in half and I was stuck.
I did what anyone else would have done:  I draped my broken chain over the chain link fence. If you’re biking along the Midtown Greeway near between Lake of the Isles and Glenwood Parkway, keep an eye out for my chain – it’s a memorial to abandoned cyclists everywhere.
First, I tried shuffling myself along the trail without pedaling like I was riding one of these:
But turns out, that’s hard work, y’all.  Plus I kept banging my shins on the pedals.  Ouch.
So I took the bus home instead.  The End.

The Hipsterest Bike Ever

Things have been a little slow around this corner of the intertubes.  I’m up to my eyeballs in trying to figure out how to manage a self-hosted wordpress setup.  But I think I’m getting the hang of it.

Here’s a little tidbit I wanted to share with y’all this morning:

(from married to the sea, via stephanie on facebook)

Not a bad way to go, really.

(note: not a real obit, FYI.)

Madeline Island

Mel and I had another Choose Your Own adventure weekend – we headed out of town with a vague idea of where we were going and what we were doing, but certainly didn’t have all the details worked out.  We drove up to Bayfield, WI, a charming little tourist trap of a town up on Lake Superior.  From there, we took a ferry out to Madeline Island and the town La Pointe, WI.  We brought the bikes, hoping to score a camping site at one of the two established campgrounds on the island.  If they were full, we were planning to just camp wherever nobody would notice us.  Here’s some photos of us on the ferry with our bikes:

And in case you didn’t catch it, yes, we’re MATCHY MATCHY:

Awww.. well that’s precious.

We got off to a rocky start when I made Mel carry all the heavy gear while I carried the pillows and sleeping pads.  I tried to make her feel better:

“But look at your gigantic thighs!  You’re so much stronger than I am!” I said.

That didn’t help the situation.  I think Mel needs to learn how to take a compliment.

We finally got the gear situation figured out, and off we went:

The island has a reputation for being extremely bike friendly, and we found this to be pretty much the case.  There were tons of bikes everywhere, although I’m not exactly sure why.  The island is 14 miles long, so it doesn’t exactly scream “bike friendly” or anything.  But we did get to spend much of the weekend on our bikes!

“Thanks for planning a great vacation surrounding my favorite hobby,” I said.

“The internet?” Mel asked, confused.

“I was talking about bikes.”

“Oh, I thought that was your 3rd favorite hobby,” she said.

“what did you think was my 2nd favorite hobby?” I asked.

“*****” (censored for our underage readers)

“Oh…. well we’ve got a pretty good top 3 list going here anyway,” I said.

We checked out the city park along Big Bay, and found a sweet beach, and some scenic views.  There were quite a few people out laying around on the beach, even if it was cool enough that most people were still wearing sweatshirts.

We lucked out and found a great campsite at the town park:

We spent all of Saturday biking, beaching, napping, and just generally gallivanting around the island.  Monday Morning, we woke up at a leisurely late hour, ate some oatmeal, rode the bikes back to the ferry, and took the ferry back to Bayfield.

Oh, and we bought CHEESE CURDS on the way home.  I’d never had them before.  They’re super-tasty.

Best Bike Trail in the Cities?

Hey Peeps!  I’ve received the first question using my new Ask Me Anything form using Google Docs!  This question comes from my buddy Don, who writes along with his wife at The Wortley Pad.  Here’s his question:

Hey Reuben- My parents are coming to town near the end of the month and I want to take them on a bike ride on one of the paths here in town. What is your favorite 5-10 mile stretch of Minneapolis/St. Paul bike paths?

Don and his wife purchased a couple of bicycles at the beginning of the summer and they’ve been hitting the trails pretty hard.  I don’t think I have any magical trails that Don hasn’t seen yet, but I’ll list some of my favorites:
First Runner Up: Midtown Greenway
winter.Grnwy.cyclist.2006.02.03 005 (2)
The Midtown Greenway between Hennepin Avenue and Cedar Avenue is arguably the nation’s premier bicycle freeway.  From an engineering and planning perspective, it is quite a marvel – definitely the most unique bike trail in town.  However, it’s utilitarian nature might not impress your parents the same way it impresses me, because, well, parents just don’t understand, so it can’t take the top spot.
Second Runner Up: Minnehaha Parkway
project365m_101107 / #303m
Minnehaha Parkway is another one of my favorite bike trails in the city.  I love being next to the creek & the trees, and I think the parkway does a great job balancing the needs of recreational and commuting cyclists.  It’s a great example of an urban park corridor.  Plus it’s super-easy to get to Minnehaha Falls, which is also a must-see for out-of-town visitors.  But it’s under construction right now, so it can’t get the top spot, either.
Third Runner Up: Cedar Lake Trail / Kenilworth Trail
Kenilworth Trail
These pieces of the Cedar Lake and Kenilworth Trails are probably my favorite trails in the metro.  I love how they split apart into separated bike and pedestrian trails, and the area north and east of Cedar Lake has a sort of no-man’s land that I find endearing.  I don’t know if these trails are good destinations on their own, however, so they can’t take the top spot.
So the Winner is…..
West River Parkway
West River Road, Bike Path, and Sidewalk, Minneapolis
If I could show out of town visitors only one trail in the cities, it would definitely be West River Parkway.  The trail allows you to check out everything downtown, including the stone arch bridge, the Guthrie Theater, and the historic riverfront mills & stuff.  Bridge 9 is a pretty awesome bridge to check out along the way.  The views of the Mississippi River and the University of Minnesota are pretty neat, and the new pavement means smooth riding the whole way.  The south end of the trail also allows easy connection to Minnehaha Falls.  Plus, if that’s not long enough for you, you can just keep going on Minnehaha Parkway, or south towards Fort Snelling.

Honorable Mentions:
East River Parkway
Bruce Vento Trail
Gateway State Trail
Theodore Wirth Parkway
Victory Memorial Parkway
SW LRT Trail

Readers, what trail would you recommend for Don and his parents?

Got any more questions????  Ask Me Anything!!!

Two Myths about Bicycling

You guys know that I’m totally into bikes. Today, I thought I’d try and shed some light on two myths surrounding bikes.

Casual Utility Cyclist

Myth: Bikes are Cheap
It’s not uncommon for people to ask me for advice when they’re considering buying a new bicycle.  My first question is always “how much are you looking to spend?”  $300 seems to be the most common price point. Generally, people are very disappointed with the options available to them for $300.   Usually, after someone tells me what they’re looking for in a bike, I tell them that they should consider raising their price point to at least $500, or maybe closer to $1,000.  It’s not that I think more expensive bikes are necessary to enjoy cycling, but I find that most people have unrealistic expectations for what they will get for their money.

Now, don’t get wrong.  I’m no bike snob.  I know there are a lot of folks who buy a $180 bike from a big box store and are perfectly happy with it.  I also know that sporting goods stores sell bikes at the $300 price point that are entirely sufficient for many riders – especially if you’re just looking for a comfortable bike to take on Saturday afternoon rides.  Used bikes are easy to come by for less than $200.  And if you’re willing to put some elbow grease into an older bike, you really can find something for cheap – but it won’t come without effort.  I do not discourage these options, but the buyer should be aware that their options will be limited, and the versatility and durability of these bikes is questionable as well.  If you skimp on up-front costs of purchasing a bicycle, you will probably pay for it later in maintenance costs.  I am all for dumpster-diving frames and parts to piece together a bicycle for hardly any cost at all, but don’t underestimate the amount of time and tools that will be required.

In addition, maintaining a bike can be expensive as well.  Cyclists who do their own bike maintenance will inevitably spend several hundred dollars on all the special tools required to do some of the more intense maintenance.  In addition, people are often surprised by the labor rates charged by local bike shops.

Bike Maintenance

Myth: Bikes Don’t Require Maintenance
I own both a car and several bikes.  My bikes regularly require more effort and maintenance to keep them on the road.  Snow, ice, and rain will very quickly cause a bicycle to start performing poorly.  Fairweather cyclists (I don’t use that pejoratively) will escape much of the maintenance costs that all-weather cyclists face.  However, every bicycle requires regular lubrication, cleaning, and adjustment to keep it running smoothly.

To some extent, this is directly related to the cost of the bike in the first place.  Part of what you pay for on more expensive bikes is higher-quality parts that will require less maintenance and are more easily repaired, replaced, or adusted.  In my case, I realize that my collection of rusty old bicycles I’ve pulled out of dumpsters requires more maintenance than if I had bought high-quality bikes in the first place.  But even the most expensive bikes require regular maintenance.  This is often more expensive or time-consuming than people think.