Ride In 2/13: I see Rhodes

Monday morning and per usual, it was at least three attempts to get out of the house and even then I still forgot my towel, so sorry about the whole not showering thing, colleagues! Best to cop to that upfront rather than leaving it to the end up the post, just so you know the frame of mind in which I'm writing. And by frame of mind, I mean vague discontentment, not because showering is strictly necessary but because I would have really preferred to have met some hot water head on after a ride in which my feet froze and my chain (new) sometimes skipped (boo). I got the replacement chain on Saturday from UrbanVelos-Topographic location where Congress meets, as it was was the closest shop to my house and I have $20 in commuter checks, which they take that. Not my top choice (that "distinction" belongs to Bicycle Space), but $20 off is still $20 off (until OBAMA MAKES INFLATION HAPPEN AND AMERICA BECOMES THE WEIMAR REPUBLIC JUST LIKE GLENN BECK PROPHESIED ON THOSE TAPES I BOUGHT MY GRANDMA!) and I figured replacing a chain would be a pretty standard thing. And it was, but the mechanic informed me, rightly, that I might experience some skipping and need to replace my rear cassette because I guess these things tend to happen after you ride your bike for some time and the chain stretches and the cogs bend a bit. The skipping really only happened when I had my bike in the gear I mostly ride, so I don't know the mechanical implications of that. Probably overdue for some kind of minor overhaul anyway.
Aside from the skipping, the ride was fine. Rode behind a guy on East Capitol on an older Fuji road bike with a brown Brooks B17, tucked under which was a Brooks saddle cover, which I suppose he would use in case of rain. We made fine time and caught a bunch of lights and he almost rode directly into a guy who was crossing on the sidewalk where East Capitol meets First NE. The guy who he almost hit called the bicyclist an "asshole" because I guess that's what you call someone when they almost ride into you.
I'd make some comment about the amount of salt in the Penn Ave cycletrack, but that's already been done. However, I do want to point out that the salt in no way caused hyper-tension between cyclists and motorists. I'm here all week, folks.
More bicyclists out than I would have expected. It was quite cold, but there was virtually no wind and not a cloud in the sky worth remembering. I find that it's hard not to bike to work once you've gotten in the habit of doing so. Probably just like every other way of getting there. We slip into our routines (donning our powdered wigs and name tags and whatnot) and commuting becomes synonymous with the way we get there. I think it's important to "reclaim" the terms related to commuting from the exclusive domain of car driving. Commuting is about going back and forth from home to not-home, not about the means you use to do it and it's silly and imprudent to cede, verbally, the idea of commuting to those who do so exclusively by car. In exchange for the word "commuting," I'll let them keep "fender bender."
Construction by the White House security gates pushed me and the guy biking behind me up onto the sidewalk, which isn't my preferred way to go. Some jerk drivers at the intersection of the cycletrack an I (Eye, Aye!) Street decided it would be fun to block the track with their not-yet-turned cars, so I rode out into the street and salmoned half a block. I caught a glimpse of Kyle, doing his best neck-swivel, eye-contact death stare as he rode by in the other direction. That move is TFTS approved! (as are many products available through SkyMall. Check the catalog for the logo on your next AirTrain flight)
A little farther up the track, a woman who decided to shoal me, almost go hit by a guy pulling into one of the mid-block parking garages. He quite dramatically slammed on his brakes and looked peeved. I decided that I would stop and let him complete his turn, not so much because he had the right of way, which he didn't, but because I wasn't in any special kind of rush. I hope that my decision to do this didn't undermine the bicyclist in front of me, making it seem like she did something wrong. I mean, she was in the right and had the right of way and was riding in a cycletrack. I just stopped as a courtesy, not because I had to. Anyway, there's no way that anyone else in this scenario has given nearly as much thought to this as I have. Or at least I hope not.
Tree work on 15th pushed me out of the lane again. It would be nice is tree trimming didn't happen during morning commute times.
Q Street was fine, but seemed narrower than normal. I hope that someone isn't playing a prank of me by moving the sidewalk out by an inch each day. This would be an elaborate prank. I think it's just more likely that a series of construction projects and big trucks and stuff made me feel cramped and corralled. Not to be confused with Cramped and Coraled, the title of my snorkeling memoir. From Dupont for another block or two, I rode behind a man on a Bikeshare bike, who rode slowly and deliberately and slowly. It's tricky to try to pass someone on Q between Connecticut and Florida, mostly because there isn't very much room to get around before the stop sign and also because there's normally a driver gunning it from the light. So, it's normally just better to wait it out, since, if you're riding up Massachusetts, pretty much everyone turns by Florida anyway and two blocks of going slower than you'd prefer won't kill you.
I was really worried about my chain slipping during the climb up Mass, but it didn't. Perhaps it was because I tried to ride very gently, whatever that means. Heard a few horn honks, but none of them were for me. I'm of the opinion that horns either need to be removed from cars or their power needs to be amplified, so that a sonic blast is actually capable of lifting and moving the object at which it's directed. The in-between state, loud enough to be bothersome, not powerful enough to cause massive destruction, is just so wishy-washy.
Some horn honks were directed at me while I was heading down Massachusetts. It was of the double-honk "I'm behind you and I'm going to pass you" variety. Totally unnecessary. Just drive by me with ample room such that we're both sure you're not going to hit me with the front end of your car. If you can do that, then I'll be pretty happy.
Something special in store for you all tonight. Get excited.


  1. Just checking: did you make the new chain the same length as the old one, or just pop it on?

    Most of my new chains are exactly 4 links longer than the factory chain - which is at least 4 links longer than necessary.

    Having a chain that's too long leads to lighter tension on the rear derailer arm, which reduces how much the chain engages the cogs. Sheldon Brown has a pretty good article about getting it right:


  2. @DaveS: I didn't make the chain anything. I relied on the mechanic to adjust the length as needed. When I bring it back for him to look at the cassette, I'll ask about the chain length.

  3. I've had mixed mechanic-related experiences with the urban velo location of which you speak....not to say that they messed anything up in your case, but I usually have to bring things in twice for repair. Once to get the repair made and a second time to have another mechanic fix the shoddy job the first one did. So as long as a different mechanic works on your bike when you take it back in, your chances of success are pretty good.

  4. FIXED THE DATE! I guess I had a bout of dyslexia there. Thanks!

  5. I'm thinking along with my $1M "mentor your commute" idea I could do some "mentor your mechanicals" fundraisers. Now to find a worthy cause and time and all...

    I stopped into that very same shop (where I also happen to be technically on staff) on Saturday and was a bit surprised to learn that they're getting by with one full-time mechanic these days, plus one part-timer. Thus your chances of getting a second opinion are somewhat limited. The way things are going you might even get me in service some weekends, Jobst help us all.

    Anyway, if they swapped the chain for you I'm sure they made it the right length. I thought perhaps you brought the chain home in a box and slipped it on yourself, which seems like it ought to work but actually doesn't. And it's not a crazy guess to think that your cassette is a casualty of your ceaseless drive to write this blog at all costs.

    Of course, if the chain popped and the cassette is worn so much it slips it also wouldn't be a crazy guess that your chainrings are worn too. They have a bit more tolerance for it, but using old chainrings with a new chain and new cassette can cause the new parts to wear faster.

    And that, in a nutshell, is why I change my own chain about once a year's worth of riding.

  6. Brian: sorry about the whole chain thing.

    Chains / chain rings evolve together (darwinanly or any way you prefer), and my guess is that you especially get into trouble when (1) you don't routinely tighten and at some interval change the chain (yearly for my mere commute) and or (2) you let the chain stretch before adjusting while daily riding untold - well, actually told - distances in the name of the blog.

    While my wife and her bike can easily visit Bike Space - she works quite near both old & new Bike Space - I continue to use the original Urban Velo Location in fused school named 'hood and equally continue to rely on the great competence of the mechanics. Just sayin'

  7. " I'll let them keep "fender bender."

    Cede no such ground, sir! Why else did I purchase & install my magnificent (so great in the rain) Velo fenders if not to someday refer to a 'fender bender',,,,,,

  8. One of the great knacks with a chain is knowing when it's got to the point where it's stretched enough that it needs replacing but not so stretched that it's also done in the rear cassette/chain rings and so on. I actually bought (surprisingly expensively) one of the gauges they use in bike shops to measure chain wear, so that I could keep an eye on the problem. The gauge paid for itself the first time I spotted that the chain was starting to stretch, but not to the point where it had wrecked everything else. If the chain's slipping on the gear you use most, I'm taking a wild guess that you've worn out the cassette. I reckon on a chain's lasting around 700 miles - since I do around 4,000 miles a year, I guess that's around two months.

    On the people honking at you, meanwhile, you have my full sympathy. I've just put up a blogpost on the morality of how we behave on the roads towards each other here - http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/ - if it enlightens you any.*

    *warning: some observations may be based on people driving on the left.