Ride Home 1/31

Song I was singing to myself when I rolled into the garage: Bulletproof by LaRoux.
(This conceit is going to show you what absolutely horrible taste I have in music)

Number of other bikes on the road: maybe 4

What I found waiting for me in the mail when I got home: a check from the DMV made out to Chase Motor Finance for $16 for returning my license plates . What am I supposed to do with that? "Hi, I'm Chase M. Finance, WASP from Connecticut, and I'd like you to cash my check, please"

Cold and the freezing rain tonight probably means that I'm not going to ride for at least another day. My definition of all-year bike commuter means that I'm equally willing to ride to work every day of the year, though things like weather (thundersnow, for example) will impact my decision.
The Key Bridge has more rocks and salt on it than a cheap margarita. No close calls, though the ice is pretty slippery- only once did I have to ride through some ice, and while I was made temporarily off-balance, it wasn't enough to bump into the rear-view mirror of the Toyota Corolla next to me. Piled-up snow means that all bike lanes become half bike lanes, so that adds a marginal degree of difficulty, though degree of difficulty is not why I ride back and forth to work.
Embarrassing mug shot.

In my earlier post, I said that I looked like  "space miner/moleperson." I take that back, on account that I have no clue what a "space miner" is or why I said that. I think upon further review, I'd say that I look like like a French New Wave bandit. It's the ridiculous hat combined with the Lisa Loeb sunglasses that I'm especially proud of. Oh well. This is not chic, but it keeps me warm.

Goal for Next Year

To crack the top 50 Bike Commuting Blogs! It's weird that none of their descriptions include the word mundane. I think in that regard I have a comparative advantage. To filling a niche!

Ride in to work- 1/31

Songs I sung on the ride in: Weezer's "Say it Ain't So" &  Margaret Whiting and Johnny Mercer's version of "Baby, It's Cold Outside," but with some made the made up lyrics of "yada yada yada to stay" and "yada yada gone in a day" flanking the "baby, it's cold outside" part.

Overall feeeling during the ride: phlegmatic.

Feats of Armstrongian determination needed to get to work: still none.

Pretty much another cold winter ride. Some icy patches on the streets and the the snow along the roadside makes it such that I'm taking the lane more than usual. Cars didn't really seem to mind. Not too many other people out of the road, but I did ride for a little while behind a guy wearing his street clothes while on some fancy Trek road bike. He had on a winter jacket that looked 80s inspired, but was probably new. I got a young architect vibe from him.  I wore my usual cold weather bike outfit, the head parts of which (helmet, Walz wool cap, ear-covering headband, sunglasses, and scarf) make me look like a some kind of space miner/mole person. Wearing a scarf on cold days has been a recent revelation and one that I feel stupid about for not realizing earlier.

One more thought about the Volpe: It's Bikes for the Rest of Us approved!


Pining for a New Bike: Bianchi Volpe edition

On weekends I go to bike shops because I'm generally pining for a new bike. I have two bikes currently and would definitely sell one to justify (ex post) the purchase of another bike. Having three bikes seems obscene in a way that having two doesn't. One of my bikes is my daily commuter- a Trek hyrbrid, that's a pretty much do-it-all kind of bike. I've had it for about a year and a half. It has fenders, a rack, and SPD-SL pedals. I use it Monday through Friday and it covers the 7 miles each way to work admirably. But I'm looking for a bike that I can take for longer rides and I'm just not convinced that this bike is as comfortable for distances greater than my normal commute. This need, of course, exists in an alternate universe, where I'm a different version of myself who regularly takes longer rides. When I went to look at the Volpe and explained that I wanted to take longer rides, he was like "cross country or like to Baltimore?" and I was like "Yeah, Baltimore. Like to Baltimore." Now, do I have any plans to ride to Baltimore? Do I have a good reason to ride to Baltimore? No on both accounts. But do I live close enough to Baltimore that someone of my age, relative skill level and inclination could reasonably make it there? Sure do, and that was apparently good enough for me to bluff the bike shop guy (and myself, I guess) into thinking that I need a bike that can not only get me to work but could also get me to Baltimore.
And I believe that the Volpe fits the bill. It's basically a great bike and I liked taking it for a test ride (in jeans and Chucks and about three quarters of a mile up Lee Highway.) And another one of it's biggest selling points is that its there and that I could ride it- the other bike I've been pining for exists to me only on the internet, the Salsa Casseroll. I go back and forth on the name of this bike. Having a bike named after both a delicious tomato-based condiment and a baked dish popular in the 70s probably has some cachet and some alt-hipster cred, but the main reason I would want the Casseroll is simply because it's a great bike with great features and looks like it would be a near-perfect commuter/trip to Baltimore bike. But it's not here and I can't take it for a test ride, to say nothing about biking it off the lot (out of the shop) today. Plus, when I went to the local bike shop that is the listed dealer of Salsas in the DC area, the guys there seemed more interested in selling me a Surly Long Haul Trucker, another highly functional but ridiculously named bike. LHTs, as they are referred to on bike message boards, are beloved, but I just don't think it's the bike for me.
So, I ultimately think that I'll go with the Volpe. I'll sell my Trek to defray some of the cost and to make sure that I hold myself to some modicum of reasonableness by not having three bikes (that's more bikes than legs.) I begged off from buying the Volpe today by explaining to the bearded salesman, not the Russian/Ukrainian salesman, that I needed to call my wife since this would be my third bike purchase in 18 months. He didn't try to pressure me exactly, but he suggested that I tell her that I could run errands using this bike. Big mistake. He should have just said, buy the damn bike so your wife doesn't have to hear you keep talking about bikes and dragging her to bike shops on weekends when she'd much rather be doing anything else (though she is very patient with me and I love her for that). I did call her, but she didn't pick up and that was ok. I'm sure she would have been obliging and told me to get it, but I'm not really sure that today was the right day anyway. It's hard to be rational about this purchase, but I'd rather not make a mistake since it's both a significant financial and emotional investment.


Transporting Beer by Bike

Please feel free to count the number of urban yuppie/hipster cliches in this tale of utility cycling. 

So, I read on twitter than my local Whole Foods was now selling growlers of fancy-ish and/or local beer. I decided to get on my bike and see if it was possible to transport a growler home successfully- I tried the other night and now I have a scarf and bag that smell a little too much like Eggenberg Pils for my liking.  This time I was determined to avoid spills, or at least mitigate the negative externalities of spilled beer, namely smelling like a sort of foppish frat house. I decided to forego the pannier approach, which I think ultimately failed because I couldn't keep the growler upright, and instead opt for the basket+bungee chord method. To be frank, I would say that I both lack the ability to solve problems pragmatically and a true dearth of mechanical vision. Ergo, figuring out the best way to loop the bungees was a challenge. I decided to go with this approach on my way there ------------------------------------------->
That's three bungees- one of which I put through the jug handle because that seemed like a sorta good idea in the way of stabilizing the beer. I rested the beer on some Peace Corps reusable grocery bags. This picture was taken with my iPhone. (If you've been counting cliches, I think we're now in the double digits). 
Does this look secure? I thought so. 

Anyway, the ride there was pretty uneventful. Not too many cars on the road, pretty much no one else on a bike. When I got to Whole Foods, I was again reminded of bicyclists status as second-class citizens as evidenced through the carefully cleared bike parking facilities. I forewent parking atop the Matterhorn and elected to instead lock my bike up directly in front of the store. After I finished shopping for the other items on my list (slivered almonds- I got sliced instead-, goat cheese and chocolate cake. The first two items are for brown rice cakes and the cake is to bring to a going away party for colleagues moving to Nigeria for work), I went my refill my growler. I chose the Flying Dog Garde Dog, which according to their website is a "traditional French Biere de Garde or "beer for keeping." It took a while for the beerkeep (my name for his job, not his own presumably) to fill the growler on account of what appeared to me to beer excessive foam. I don't know whether the foam was a result of the newness of the tap or his poor pouring, but it took about 5 minutes to fill the growler the full 64 oz. I used this time to marvel at the multitude of cheeses in front of me. 
Beerkeep, with cheese in foreground. 
Beer filled, it was time for checkout, which at Whole Foods is like some sort of weird Thorstein Veblen-inspired anthropological observation. While I won't bore you with the descriptions of my fellow linemates, though the older women with the faded jeans, East European red hair and cart full of cheeseplates and cupcakes was almost as interesting as rich soccer dad with cashmere scarf who looked like DB Cooper, I used my infuriatingly long wait to observe what Whole Foods tries to hawk to you as you check out. Here are some pictures: 


Contradictions both! I love wine, but what scotch should I buy? I love recognizing desire is the path to all evil, but I'd sure like some money! I never knew Whole Foods was in the business of purveying existential angst  along with organic produce and frozen vegan buritos.Anyway, back to the bike I went with my bags and beer. I only used two bungees this time, both of which went through the jug handle and managed to stay affixed to the wire basket during the entire slushy, bumpy ride home. This strategy seemed to work since no beer was spilled and the rest of my groceries (all four things) managed to make it home without incident. In conclusion, it's both possible and quite easy to transport a growler of beer by bike, though it is also easy to transport cans or bottles, but then you wouldn't have the same smug sense of smug satisfaction that you get from reusing a big glass jug instead of vessels that you would just put in your recycling upon finishing. It wasn't harrowing, but I suppose that's the point. I got to ride my bike a little, avoid a hazardous and stressful parking lot full of BMWs and Lexus SUVs vying for limited spaces and have a sample of beer all before noon on a Saturday. And then I blogged about it on my Macbook. 

PS- Final cliche count- 547.