My bike tour (a boring personal post)

I rode my bike from Chicago to New York in September. Packing list here, if you recall.

I’ve avoided writing a blog post about it because, well, everyone has a blog post about their bike tour, it’s hard to make it interesting to a reader who didn’t go on the trip.

Sure, for me, it was an epiphany, maybe the most rewarding two and a half weeks of my life. But mostly I pedaled and ate, which isn’t all that exciting to you. No mechanical problem, no outlandish tales of getting lost. What did I think about when I pedaled? Generally I thought about pedaling. So I’ll spare you the bike tour philosophizing.

But if you want that anyway, I recommend Bruce Weber, Life is a Wheel: Memoirs of a Bike-Riding Obituarist (New York: Scribner, 2015).

Instead, let’s look at some pictures.

Continue reading “My bike tour (a boring personal post)”

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Tour de (à?) New York 2017: a pre-trip primer

I’m beginning a solo bike tour to New York on Thursday. Thus Chicago Bike Report goes on hiatus for a few weeks, as I trek through the wilds of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario, and New York.

But you don’t want to hear about that, right? This is a cycling news and analysis blog. Wait–what’s that? You do have questions about my bike tour? Oh, I’m flattered. Let’s talk about my bike tour!

What bike are you riding? Is it cool?

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Yes, it is cool. It’s the Prairie Chicken, my just-built, repainted, custom decaled 1987 Cannondale SR-400. An old racing frame that isn’t really suited to touring. Short chainstays, bad rack mounts, and barely enough clearance for 28c tires and a rear fender. But, like her namesake, she’s a scrappy grouse, and I think she’ll do just fine. The aluminum frame seems quite robust.

I built it up with mostly used parts, scrounged from various old bikes. (Thanks, Dad.)

Some highlights:

  • Surly Cross Check fork, with plentiful rack mounts
  • Heavy-duty Sun CR-18 36-spoke rims with some type of Shimano hub
  • Shimano RSX crankset, LX rear derailleur, Tiagra front derailleur (new), 9-speed cassette
  • Shimano Light Action barend shifters, 8 speed (set to friction mode because the drivetrain is 9 speed)
  • Handlebars angled too high (shush, I fixed it)

The racks: an old, heavy-duty aluminum Jandd in the front and an Axiom DLX Streamliner Disc in the rear. The latter mounts to the brake bridge, owing to the lack of braze-ons. Let’s hope it’s sturdy enough!

What’s your route?

Something like this, but not exactly:

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First, up to Manitowoc, Wisconsin. There I catch the ferry to Ludington, Michigan, and continue east through Ontario. From there I follow the Erie Canal across New York, then down south to the suburbs of New York, to my parents’ house. I’ll be following the Adventure Cycling Association maps part of the way.

 

What are you bringing? Can you describe it in more detail than I care to hear?

Yes.

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I’m using some old Lone Peak Panniers, seen lined up along the top of the white Tyvek ground sheet above. Panniers contain the items arranged vertically below them. From left to right, these are:

Left rear: sleep supplies, a couple Ziploc bags, 50 feet of paracord to hang food away from raccoons

Right rear: clothes, including 2 cycling outfits (plus the outfit I’ll wear), a base layer, long pants, long-sleeve jerseys, jacket, a couple garbage bags for miscellaneous rain protection

Left front: rain gear, toiletries, electronics, and bike repair. This includes a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap, a solar charger, a Topeak Road Morph G pump, chain lube, zip ties, chain tool, tubes, patches, tire levers, Kryptonite cable lock (not U-Lock! must save weight), and a couple plastic bags as makeshift shoe-covers

Right front: The kitchen. A cool Trangia camping stove, a 500ml Nalgene of denatured alcohol fuel, a plastic flask of rye whiskey, some water bags, a titanium spork, and food for the first couple days: oatmeal, couscous, tuna, 5 Clif bars, 2 gels (gross).

Handlebar bag (since converted to saddle bag): multitool, maps, sunglasses, notebook and pen, camera, nylon shorts for modesty around non-cyclists

And mounted on the front rack will be my tent, a Kelty Grand Mesa 2-person.

All in all, the gear weighs 38 pounds.

As far as weight distribution goes: the smaller front panniers hold denser items, so they’re about as heavy as the rear ones. Putting the tent on the front rack gives me slightly more weight in the front than the rear.

That’s how I want it, because I’m wary of putting too much on the Axiom rear rack. This in spite of its stated capacity of 110 lbs. It seems like it’ll hold 25lbs just fine. But 110 pounds is nutty, and it’s only a matter of time before someone sues Axiom for making false claims.

Why?

I had a few weeks with no obligations. Why not?


I don’t anticipate being able to update the blog on the road, but expect a couple comprehensive posts at the end. Check back in a few weeks, and enjoy your rides in the meantime!

August 7 bike forecast: springlike, sort of

Monday: it’s as if spring has returned, eight months early.

MONDAY WEATHER INFOGRAPHIC:unnamed.jpg

No, not a fancy great spring day, but a solid, workmanlike, mediocre spring day.

Overall: high 72, low 60, cloudy-ish, 40% chance of rain, winds from the north-northeast

AM: high 60s, 25% chance of rain, partly cloudy, 7mph winds from the north-northeast

PM: 70º, chance of rain, and annoying winds of 14mph from the north-northeast

That means if you’re riding north to get home in the evening, you might wanna avoid the especially blustery Lake Front Trail.


DIVVY REPORT: RIP the State and 29th St. Divvy station, which was de-listed last week. You served us well. (Or maybe you didn’t, and that’s why you were de-listed.)

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Nearby residents can use 31st and Indiana or 26th and Indiana.

Up-to-the-minute updates here.


STREET CLOSURES

and

PARTIAL STREET CLOSURES


In insane news (non-Trump)…

The Navy Pier Flyover began construction in March of 2014. It’s scheduled to be completed at the end of 2018. That’s four and a half years. For a bike and pedestrian bridge! Which, as John Greenfield pointed out a while ago, is longer than it took to build the Golden Gate Bridge.

When did CDOT begin planning the project? In 2001. That’s seventeen years from planning to completion.

Why? According to ActiveTrans:

“[T]he flyover isn’t just about function. Because it is located in a prominent part of the Chicago, CDOT also wants the flyover to be an iconic architectural structure in the city.

“The main design feature of the flyover will be its serpentine form, curving around parks and buildings. A visually striking steel rib superstructure will support the bridge and accommodate its curves.

To further reinforce the cutting-edge design, the bridge will include cable steel railings and LED lights built into the railings. The panels along the side of the bridge will feature running and walking motifs to reflect the purpose of the bridge.”

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It does indeed look nice. But is 4.5 years of construction worth it to look good for tourists? Hmm.


OVERALL COMMUTE RATING:

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2.8/4. Even with the prospect of rain, we welcome a cool day.

July 20 bike forecast: worse than it looks

Take a look at the Thursday weather infographic.

THURSDAY WEATHER INFOGRAPHIC:unnamed.jpg

Not great. But closer and it’s worse! Much worse.

Overall: high 89, low 71, scattered thunderstorms, moderate winds, and humid as heck.

Temperature will hit the high 80s in the afternoon before abruptly cooling down at 3pm, they say. With the humidity, that gives us a heat index of 97 degrees around 2pm. (Take all this with grain of salt.)

AM: high 70s, scattered thunderstorms, wind from the southwest at 12mph, humid

PM: 80ish, chance of rain, wind from the northeast at 11mph.


DIVVY REPORT: State St. and 29th still offline. Up-to-the-minute updates here.


STREET CLOSURES

and

PARTIAL STREET CLOSURES


Spotted on the road…

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Smiling bay window, Evanston.


OVERALL COMMUTE RATING:

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1.6/4. Pretty bad!

July 19 bike forecast: supposed to be terrible, but it’s not

By this time yesterday it seemed like Wednesday would be 85 degrees with 100% humidity and thunderstorms. But lo, a new meteorological consensus has emerged.

WEDNESDAY WEATHER INFOGRAPHIC:

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Overall: hi 81, lo 71, partly cloudy, a bit of wind from the northish, and 25% chance of rain. Kind of humid, too.

AM: high 70s, partly cloudy, 25% chance of rain

PM: high 70s, only slightly cloudy, wind from the northeast at 8mph.


LETTUCE CAT PREDICTION OF WINDINESS:

Just the barest breeze. Quite pleasant.


DIVVY REPORT: State St. and 29th still offline. Up-to-the-minute updates here.


STREET CLOSURES

and

PARTIAL STREET CLOSURES


Spotted on the road…

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Andersonville water tower construction.


OVERALL COMMUTE RATING: 

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3/4. Marked down only because of 25% chance of rain. Enjoy!

July 18 bike forecast: warmer, still pleasant

Tuesday: a quality day like Monday. Less windy, more heat, even more sun.

Enjoy it while you can, because the rest of the week is supposed to be rainy and sweltering.

TUESDAY WEATHER INFOGRAPHIC:

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Overall: high 82, low 71, sunny with light winds from the southeast

AM: 70º, no wind to speak of, with just the barest wisp of a cloud

PM: 80-ish, sunny, wind from the southeast at 9mph.


So sunny! Consider wearing a hat, like this:

Bald people especially:

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DIVVY REPORT: State St. and 29th offline. Up-to-the-minute updates here.


STREET CLOSURES

and

PARTIAL STREET CLOSURES


Spotted on the road…

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Riding a bike while carrying a bike, Rogers Park.


OVERALL COMMUTE RATING:

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3.3/4. Excellent, if a little warm. Ride bike!

June 26 bike forecast: Cooler weather continues

Monday: new week, new weather. (Duh.)

What do we have to look forward to? Spring-like balminess and wind levels verging on annoying.

MONDAY WEATHER INFOGRAPHIC:

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Overall: High 73, low 54. Partly cloudy, winds 10-20 mph. “A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible.”

AM: low 60s, mostly sunny, wind from the west at 12 mph.

PM: high 60s, mostly cloudy, wind from the northwest at 15 mph.


Lettuce Cat Wind Meter:

Not surprising. 15 mph is about the speed that will knock lettuce off of a cat’s head.


DIVVY REPORT:We’re guessing Phillips Ave & 82nd St. isn’t coming back, so we’ll just say “all stations online.” Up-to-the-minute updates here.


STREET CLOSURES

and

PARTIAL STREET CLOSURES


OVERALL COMMUTE RATING:Flag_of_Chicago__Illinois_svg.png

3/4. Winds from the northwest could challenge the fortitude of northbound commuters in the evening, but otherwise this looks like a pretty nice day.

June 9 forecast: pretty nice, too

Friday: like Thursday, but not quite as nice. A little hotter, a little windier.

But just wait ’til this weekend. 90 degrees! Oy.

FRIDAY WEATHER INFOGRAPHIC:

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Overall: high 81, low 59, mostly sunny, moderate wind

AM: low 70s, sunny, wind from the west-southwest at 10mph

PMhigh 60s, sunny, wind from the northeast at 10mph

Note the wind direction reversal from AM to PM.


TANGENTIALLY WEATHER-RELATED CAT GIF:

Sunny.


DIVVY REPORT: all stations operational.


STREET CLOSURES

and

PARTIAL STREET CLOSURES


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3.75/4. Really nice! Enjoy your bike before sweat-fest this weekend.