Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Blast from the Past: A Former Rivendell Returns

I've been stating for some time now that I was going to share more about the newest addition to the bike fold. It's taken a bit longer than I thought to actually get to it, but here we are and I am able to finally deliver as promised.

My first Rivendell was the Sam Hillborne (that has remained in the fold since day one), but it was not the only Riv to come into our house. It was followed a couple of years later by Rivendell's A Homer Hilsen. I felt a little silly having both of these bikes, but they really did serve different purposes. When they were both in our home originally, the Hillborne was loaded up with racks and bags and was providing more of a city bike/grocery-fetching functionality, while the Hilsen was my road bike, stripped down to barest essentials. I went through a few rounds with set up switching between drop handlebars and more upright bars, but the Hilsen's functionality remained the same while it was with me.

Unfortunately, we ran into some unexpected expenses when Sam ended up in the emergency room, and we had some bills to cover associated with that visit. In order to help with paying some of those costs, I made the decision to sell the A Homer Hilsen. At the time, I thought I was okay with the choice, but soon after the loss started to set in. It wasn't that I minded selling a bike to cover the bills, but it kind of set me off on a strange course of trying to find the perfect (at least for me) long distance road-ish bike again.

Ultimately, I was able to find a great replacement for the Hilsen in the Box Dog Bikes Pelican. As you may recall, one of the reasons I didn't get an A Homer Hilsen when obtaining the Pelican was price. I just couldn't bring myself to pay today's prices and even though I'd been looking for years trying to find a second-hand Hilsen in the proper size, it just never materialized. I had accepted that it just wasn't meant to be in my life and went about using the Pelican as a much-enjoyed replacement.

Then, one day early this year, I received one of Rivendell's mass emails. While reading the email I ended up back at Riv's website on their special's page and discovered there an unpainted NOS Rivendell A Homer Hilsen/Saluki. My insides started to jump. Could it be? Sitting here in front of my eyes was the right-sized past bicycle I'd let go -- and for almost exactly the price I'd paid several years prior. It was as though someone was playing an April Fool's joke on me in January. A New Year's joke, perhaps?

A brief discussion was had, but I knew Sam was aware of how much I would love to have this particular bike back in my life, so there really wasn't much to talk about. I wasn't entirely sure at the time how it would fit into the current bikes, but I knew that I had to get the frame and I could worry about set up and function/purpose later.

The frame was listed as a Saluki frame, but it was my understanding that the Salukis and A Homer Hilsens were virtually the same, and for the size I need, I don't think there were any differences as far as geometry is concerned.

The best part was that I would be able to pick the paint color and I was told I could choose between A Homer Hilsen and Saluki decals for the frame (which just reaffirmed my belief that these were very, very similar). While I was excited about choosing a paint color, I also know that I have a horrible time picking paint for projects, but I also didn't want to waste the opportunity to be able to pick a color different from the standard either. Decisions, decisions.

I opted to go with the Saluki stickers, though I didn't really have a reason for the choice. Perhaps, at least in some small part, it's because I have a great love of dogs, but truly I would have been okay with either set of decals.

It took longer than expected for the frame to get painted. It was supposed to be a couple of weeks as was originally quoted, but ended up taking about four times longer than my overly-excited mind was ready to wait. Then, one day I received an email that stated, "Here is your frame..."
One of the photos received from Rivendell to let me know the frame was ready to ship.
Leaving the color technicalities to the folks at Rivendell had me wondering what would ultimately end up coming to me, but I was happy to see that it was pretty and bright - though not obnoxious - just as I'd hoped. I couldn't wait for the frame to get into my hands!

As I waited for the frame's arrival, I started debating what to do with the build. We had nearly every part needed to build up the bike, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to make it more road-focused or built ready to handle daily needs around town.

Since my hands have been struggling over the last few years, I decided to stick with the Albatross handlebars (as these work well for me), but thought that I'd turn them right-side-up to make it a little different set up than the current build of the Hillborne.
The Saluki was ridden this way for several weeks as I attempted to ascertain whether the set up would work for me or not. I was enjoying the set up, but it felt a little too upright. Even as someone who likes to sit up a bit, it was feeling a little too cruiser-bike-like for my preferences. I continued to ride though, hoping that I'd adjust to this set up. We even dropped the stem low, hoping that this would be enough to help me find the comfort I was seeking on the bike.
Eventually, I knew that I needed to change the handlebar set up, so we made a small switch, turning the bars upside down to match the set up of the Hillborne and added bar tape instead of the cork grips.

Even with the change to the handlebars, there still seemed to be need to keep tweaking things mildly, and I'm sure that will continue for a time until the right combination comes together. I do have other handlebar options as well, such as the butterfly/trekking bars like those on the VO Campeur, a set of Nitto drop bars, as well as a couple of other possibilities.
What has been interesting is to compare my memories of the A Homer Hilsen with the latest arrival. It can be easy to build something up from the past and give it qualities that it didn't necessarily possess, but I have found this bike to be all that I remember.

Since the set up is slightly different than the former version, I am finding a necessary adjustment period, but the bike itself rides as smoothly as I'd recalled. It is also a bit amusing that, just as with my first round with this bicycle, I am almost unsure of what to make of the appropriately sized top tube. Having grown used to being more stretched on the Hillborne, it is as though I expect a bike to have more reach. The remedy in the past was to use drop bars, which seemed to help cure the mild feelings of smallness, but I don't know if I'll go that route this time or not.

After riding the Saluki for a handful of months, I can say that I'm happy to have it back in my life, though I still don't quite know what its exact purpose is in the fold. Oh, I use it for errands and transportation, and I've taken it on a couple of rides just for the fun of it, but having filled the road bike slot with the Pelican, and having an appropriate option for getting groceries and other needs with the Campeur, and the somewhere-in-the-middle bike slot being filled by the Hillborne, it's almost as though I'm not quite sure where the Saluki fits in - and it's an odd sensation, as I expected it would immediately find a purpose.
In some sense, I suppose the bike can hold the position of fill-in for whichever option may be in need of repairs or maintenance at a given time. It's never a bad option to have a back-up, I think.

With all of my uncertainty surrounding a specific purpose for this bike though, it may seem strange that I was anxious to get the Saluki back. Certainly, I would have lived without having it, but there's a part of me that was hoping to recapture a bit of the past; a past that had me pedaling at my best. Although I realize it's not exactly possible to go back, there is a quality I've always appreciated about this bike that I can't quite put my finger on when pressed for specifics. It's an intangible, but it's there. While none of the photos seem to do it justice, I must say that the Saluki is a beautiful thing to behold, which doesn't hurt my feelings either.

Ultimately, it has been fun to re-welcome this blast from the past, and I hope to have many enjoyable rides as we move forward together. I don't know where the road will take us, but I look forward to figuring it out as we go.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Why I Participate in Races, Even Though I Stand No Chance of Being Competitive or Winning

Mother's sometimes have a way of saying things that no one else can get away with expressing to another individual. Mine happens to have no filter when it comes to people she knows and strangers alike, so the questions she asks at times shouldn't really surprise me (though they sometimes leave me apologizing to strangers). Now in her 70s, that filter seems to be nearly non-existent, so if I thought her verbal spouts were difficult to deal with at a younger age, I am learning that the verbalization of whatever enters her mind is becoming more frequent as she gets older.

Recently though, mother dear posed a question that I thought was rather interesting (even if I was slightly offended at the asking). We were chatting about recent happenings and I mentioned that Sam and I had participated in a running race. Her response was, "You? You were in a race? Running?"

It was a mostly legitimate question as my body has taken some blows over the last couple of years that have resulted in both my hesitancy to want to participate in group activities and that often keep me from being able to run. Not to mention that I am, of course, overweight. The combination hardly makes for a good recipe for success in a race of any sort.

My response was that, yes, I participated in a race but for the most part, I didn't run because I wasn't capable when I arrived to race on the day in question. It's not as though it was the first race she thought I'd completed, so her question seemed a little out of place to me, but it still had me thinking.

The thing is, I had entered the race knowing that there was a strong possibility I wouldn't be capable of running on race day, and also well aware that I stood no chance of being competitive regardless of whether I was running or walking.
I have joked with others that I participate in races to make everyone else feel better about themselves. I say it really in half-jest because I am conscious of the reality that I stand no chance of winning any foot or wheel race, or even placing in my age division or any other category. It's just my reality. I have never been fast at anything and regardless of my training regimen, I will never be faster than the slowest individuals.

So, why participate in races at all?

I have pondered this over the years, but never really put it down on paper (or computer in this instance), so I thought I would share thoughts for anyone else who may believe him/herself to be slow or who may be hesitant for whatever reason to participate in races. My reasons may be different than others, but perhaps sharing them will be of benefit to someone who is thinking about entering a race of his/her own.

Personally, I tend to be a go-big-or-go home sort of person. My very first race ever (other than being forced into events in physical ed in school) was a marathon. Yep. My first race as an adult was running 26.1 miles. I did not run the whole event, but I did ultimately complete it. Most people start with a 5k or 10k, but not me. Nope, I headed straight for the big show. Honestly though, I did this because I was afraid that if I entered a shorter race and didn't do well or it didn't go well for me physically, it might keep me from doing the marathon, and I was determined to complete a marathon.

It was both one of the best and worst experiences of my life. I was not properly trained for the event, I didn't understand the need for fueling during an endurance race, and I had a number of obstacles to endure throughout the race including heading off in the wrong direction half way through, only to find myself about a mile off course before someone informed me that I was going the wrong way.

But there were amazing things that I will never forget about this race like having my very own unknown-to-me cheering section that followed me from mile 8 to about mile 11, and actually completing the race, which was something I wasn't sure would happen by the time I hit about mile 16.

Surprisingly, I was not the last person to finish, which I was certain was my fate. I had been very slow and added about two miles to the course, so as I watched others pass over the finish, I admired the fact that not one of them had given up... and believe me, we had plenty of opportunities.

When I reached mile 14, the race barriers, cones and water stations were all being removed. Vans for the event started to circle and ask individuals if they wanted a ride to the finish line. It was very demotivating, I must say, particularly as they seemed to come around every 5 minutes. By mile 17, I realized most participants were likely done and I felt very alone on the course. I was also in a lot of pain. My back had started to seize up, and I had no water or food with me.

I had a bright spot though. There were a group of ladies, who had finished the half marathon operating in tandem with the marathon, driving around offering water to those who were still on the course trying to finish. About every mile or so, they'd come around again asking if I needed anything. These few ladies were seriously one of the big factors allowing me to get to the finish line because by mile 20, I was seriously considering conceding and taking a ride to the finish line.

I imagine for any competitive runner there are always pains too, and that running 26+ miles isn't easy for 99% of the population, but when a person is slow it is that much more time that s/he is on their feet which creates additional aches and pains. Imagine walking or running for 4 hours versus 8 hours - it's a huge difference to any body.

The miles between 20 and 23 were some of the most painful in my life. I had to stop several times to issue out some positive self-talk and remind myself why I was doing this race.

Why was I doing the race? Completing a marathon was a bucket list item for me. It seemed so ludicrous to be able to finish that I wanted a big challenge to see if I could get it done. When I had moments of doubt, I told myself, "You never have to do this again. Just get to the finish line." Remarkably, it seemed to help. Nearing the end of the race, my legs were barely moving, and I had absolutely no idea where I was in the race because all of the markers had been removed.

At this point, there was a police officer in the road still assisting those who needed to cross a busy spot during the race. As I crossed I asked of him, "Do you happen to know what mile this is?" He responded telling me I was at mile 23, and suddenly I had a renewed pep in my step. "Really?" I couldn't help but gleefully respond. That meant I only had about 3 miles left to go. I could do three miles, I thought, even if I had to crawl over the finish line. It was also a very obvious reminder to me that our minds have so much control over our bodies.

Happily, I did not crawl at any point during the race, and Sam, who had finished hours before me, came out to meet me with about two tenths of a mile to go. It was perfect timing as I needed that push to get through that last little bit.
*Image here
After the marathon, I pretty much swore off races. If I wasn't going to do another marathon, what could ever compete with that type of distance? But, as it turned out, it would not be my last race.

Which brings me to the real point of this post. The reasons or the motivation that keep me entering races both on foot and bicycle.

Really, there can be one to several reasons I choose to enter a race. I've participated in races simply to help out a friend who was starting a new race and needed participants to sign up, or because I wanted to support a charitable organization. I've participated because the course just sounded fun, challenging, or both. I've done some races simply because I needed a kick in the rear and to have a goal to work towards. But most often, it's just the need to challenge myself and improve on the past.

The reality is most people who enter races know they aren't going to win. If the goal was simply winning, there would be only a handful of individuals who would participate in any race. For the vast majority of participants, I would say the purpose or goal is something found within themselves. Maybe they want to beat a prior time on the same course or they want to better a time from a similar distance on another course. Perhaps they just enjoy running or cycling and being in a group headed toward the same goal is helpful. It may stand to reason that a person simply wants to visit a city and participating in a race is an easy "excuse" to have a mini-vacation. It's not for me to say what, where or who motivates another person to race, but I do think that everyone finds their individual reason(s).

My point is, just because I'm not fast doesn't mean I should shy away from a race. In fact, during a race recently, I was at the very back of the pack to start. I had told Sam before we began that my only goal was not to finish last, so when I realized where I was I knew I wasn't off to the best start. However, it turned out to be the perfect spot for me. It takes me awhile to warm up and I could see where everyone was in front of me. A few had started out too fast and it became a mental game to try and overtake as many individuals as I could. As soon as I'd passed one person, I'd set my sights on the next and tell myself internally that I would not allow the person I'd just passed to get in front of me. Not only did it make the distance seem much shorter, but it was great motivation as well.

If I were to offer thoughts or tips to anyone who is considering a race and who hasn't raced previously, I don't know that I'd advise him or her to start with a marathon run or a century ride, but I suppose it would depend on the individual. For me, I thrive on the possibility that I may not finish at all (it's a bit of a twisted thought process, I do understand), but I also participate in short distances which can be just as much if not more challenging and/or fun.

Ultimately, there are some things I wish someone had told me before the first time I raced. Here are a few, in no particular order:
1. Understand that endurance races require fueling. You will "bonk" without taking in some sort of nutrition. I used to think because I'm bigger I didn't need fuel. Unfortunately, the body doesn't work that way. For me, if the race is longer than 2.5 hours, I know I need to start fueling every 30-45 minutes from the start. If it's less than 2.5 hours, usually water is sufficient. Your mileage may vary though, of course.
2. Test your food/gu/energy product prior to race day to know if your body will tolerate it or not. I've had some quite unpleasant reactions trying to test energy products on race day.
3. Invest in proper, comfortable equipment/clothing.
4. Don't test new shoes, clothing, saddle, handlebars, bike, etc for the first time on race day.
5. Take care of injuries and rest when needed; trying to push through training when injured only delays healing or intensifies the injury.
6. Recognize the difference between true injury and excuse-making to miss a training day.
7. People have always been kind to me during races, encouraging me when I needed it or offering support, and I try to return that favor whenever possible.
8. Many races have cutoff times, but if you're concerned you won't make it in the allotted time frame, look for another race that allows everyone to finish (walker-friendly events are great resources for runners who are slow), or contact the organizers to see if they'll allow finishers after the listed cutoff.
9. Don't shy away from something that seems scary simply because you don't know if you can finish. If you don't train and try, you will never know.
10. Slowing down or going slow doesn't mean you're a failure or that you should give up. We all start and end somewhere and finishing always feels better than quitting, regardless of the finish time.
11. Race/action photos are some of the worst photos I have ever seen of myself. If it's going to make you crazy to see a bad picture, just don't look at the photos at all (or have someone you trust preview them and tell you if it's safe to look).
*Image here
The saying goes, slow and steady wins the race, but that definitely hasn't been my experience. I suppose it depends on ones definition of "slow" though, and the definition of "win" as well. There are lots of moments that take place during a race, whether a person has the best overall finishing time or not, that can feel like victories. I sometimes wonder where I'd be today if I'd never tried a race at all, but I don't truly want to know what that world is like. Every race teaches me something about myself - whether I want to learn a lesson or not - and, the great thing about being slow is that there is always room for improvement.

Racing isn't everything to me, and my world doesn't come to an end if I don't participate in an event, but it's a nice, occasional practice to remind myself that there is competitiveness within me, even if it doesn't show by finish times or to anyone else who's racing. Plus, it's always fun to see if I can improve, even a small amount, from one race to the next.

Any other slow racers out there? On foot, on a bike, or any other sport? If you have words of wisdom or your own race stories to share, please do!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

How Many is Too Many?

It's a question that has been asked in various places by many, many people. How many bicycles does one person need, and how many are simply too many? In reading over the years, it has become apparent that there are two very separated sides of this question: those who believe one bicycle is more than enough, and those who follow the n+1 philosophy. There are definitely those who fall somewhere in the middle too. I suppose I fancy myself one of those people - the middle of the road sort of person. While I believe it is possible to live with just one bicycle, I understand that there are many types of terrain and distances that riders will cover, so it is less likely that one bicycle will do the job in every situation.

Still, I can't help but question how many bicycles a person truly needs. Recently, Sam and I were in conversation about such matters.  We have both (separately, but somehow around the same stretch of time) had thoughts of limiting bicycles. Sam has been in search of "the one" bicycle to rule them all. When I pointed out that he rides rough mountain roads and long paved roads as well, he agreed that he wasn't truly going to be able to limit his bicycles to one single ride.

My problem is nearly the exact opposite. While Sam's bicycles all have a different purpose, my bicycles all (for the most part) perform the same type of riding. They all cover distance fine, they all have wide-ish tires that allow for some trail riding when needed, they can all have racks/bags added or removed at will, and they're all set up with comfort at the forefront and speed as a secondary point.

However, several of my bicycles I could never own again either due to the cost-prohibitive nature of repurchasing in the future or because the size or bicycle is no longer made. This makes the idea of eliminating a bicycle (or three) very difficult! Yes, this is truly a first world problem. I have so much that I don't know what to eliminate from my life. That in itself is a bit unsettling.
Our "bike house." It is approximately 11 ft tall at its peak to allow storage in the rafters for wheels, frames that are un-built, and other miscellaneous parts.
Yet, I know what it is to go without, and I don't wish to live a life of hoarding excessive material possessions. Our bicycle obsession - and that is the only appropriate word I can think to use at this moment - even resulted in building a separate storage shed just for housing bikes. Granted, we built the shed ourselves for almost no cost from scrap pieces of wood, but one has to question how far things have turned when a separate housing structure is required for bicycle storage.

Currently, we have 12 built bicycles between the two of us. While I realize that is far from the shocking numbers often shared by other enthusiasts, in our minds, it still feels like overkill. But, when we sit down to try to figure out which bicycles should go, it becomes a far more challenging task than one might expect. It's great to have bicycles that work well, but when is it too much of a good thing?

Speaking for myself, I ride each of my bicycles. Some get more saddle time than others, but they all get used. In some ways, I know I've done this intentionally to justify owning them, and in many ways it does provide comfort to be able to say, "Well, I use them all." But, I can't help but believe that there is still a bit of sickness taking place under the surface.

Most people have some kind of hobby that s/he spends on, and those items are usually not regarded as necessary. I suppose bicycles, while utilitarian, provide a sort of hobby for each of us. Of course they are practical machines, but does that practicality reach an end point when the numbers become excessive? And how many exactly marks an excessive number? I had personally thought that it was easy for Sam to justify his bicycles because they each fulfill a unique task, as opposed to myself who simply owns similar bicycles but in greater quantity than necessary, but when our discussion came up, I quickly understood that even he feels that the justification is difficult when the numbers get higher.

To a greater or lesser extent, having "spare" bicycles can come in handy when there are repairs or maintenance that need to be completed. It's also nice when friends or family visit to be able to loan out a bike. I also particularly enjoy being able to test out different parts and not have every bicycle dismantled in order to test a change - particularly when I'm not certain how well the test will go or how long the test may drag out.

Then there's the costs involved in each build. Sam and I often take on different methods in this regard. Sam takes his time, searching for the absolute best deal on a part (or frame), waiting patiently and watching for the one that suits his pre-set budget. He is flexible (obviously within the constraints of what is needed for a particular frame) when it comes to exact part selection. In fact, there is a local secondhand seller on eBay that employs individuals who are on a first name basis with Sam. Sometimes, even if a part is currently unneeded but is too good a deal to pass up, Sam will make the leap and hope that it will get used on a future build or that someone else will need the part.

While I also want to get a deal, if there is a part I'm particularly fond of using, I will spend a little more to get the particulars that suit me. I don't like having extra parts that aren't getting used (with the exception of handlebars - this is one part for which I actually like to have options) and I prefer to resell or give away the excess unless I believe I will use it on another bike, such as newer bar tape or pedals.

Even though we approach builds differently, we have both obviously reached a point that has caused us to stop and question what we are doing and have both been wondering exactly how many bicycles we should individually own. As Sam pointed out during our discussion, even if we were to flush out the excess, we would still be looking, wondering, and pondering other bicycles though. It's as though the n+1 rule comes into play whether we want it to or not.

I don't truly think anyone can answer for another how many bicycles are too many. For one, having two bicycles may seem excessive, and for others they may extend well into double digits before having such thoughts. Perhaps for some "excessive" never enters their thoughts at all.

As for me, I don't know where this process is leading. I'm hesitant to sell off bikes as I've regretted doing so in the past, but there's still that nagging voice telling me that the number owned is simply too many. Sam's suggestion was to pull a couple of builds apart and store them to see how I feel about not using them for a stretch of time. That may be a plausible suggestion that I implement, but for now, I continue to enjoy my bicycles. I think that's the most important piece of the puzzle to me -- that I find joy each time I get to ride.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Flat Tire Protection: Test Results from Homemade and Retail Options

Keeping bicycle tires from getting punctures can be a challenge. For the most part, I've given up on having pretty, soft (comfortable) tires because I have found that they aren't low maintenance when it comes to dealing with road debris. When making a run to the grocery store or taking care of a quick errand, it can be a nuisance to have to stop to fix a flat.

There are a variety of options available for sale. Everything from putting goop in tires to thicker tubes, but last fall, I decided I wanted to try out a couple of options that I'd been curious about, and I thought I'd share what's happened to date.

Over the last several months, I have been testing a couple of fairly inexpensive flat protection possibilities. One is a homemade option, while the other is store bought. I wanted to see if either (or both) would actually provide protection from glass and other potentially poke-through-the-tire debris found commonly on roads and paths. I will say from the get-go, I have been pretty impressed thus far with both options.
Stop Flats 2 comes with a set of two liners, one for each tire.
When I picked up another bike early this year, I wanted to put cream tires on it, but the two tire options I enjoy riding have both left me wanting when it comes to flat protection. I decided to try StopFlats as liners in the tires to see if would provide the protection I need.

These liners are not new to the market, but I haven't yet had the opportunity to test them. I have had the opportunity to see and hold them close up and thought that they seemed a viable option to actually help prevent flats, but the only way to know for sure would be to put them on and get to riding.

The first challenge was deciding which size to buy. There seems to be a plethora of size options and it's supposed to be made easier by the color coded liners, but I still found it to be a bit challenging. There seems to be some overlap in sizing in a few instances and some sizes that are still missing from the line up too.
A few samples from the size line up of StopFlats
Ultimately, I settled on a size to try for my 650bx38 tires and went about installing them. The installation is pretty simple and wraps around the interior of the tire before the tube is inserted. I had installed these once before on a customer's bike while filling in at a local bike shop, but the process seemed a bit more challenging with my tires. It could be that they are simply a softer tire so keeping the liners in place while adding the tube presented a bit of a challenge, but nothing that was unmanageable.

My tests with this liner are still fairly limited as they have been in place for only a couple of months (and certainly not the most thorn-centric months), but thus far, they have not disappointed. I have ridden through glass shards, dirt paths with goatheads and other stickers, and rolled over metal and other road debris without experiencing a flat tire. To date, these liners have lived up to expectations, but I look forward to testing them over the longer term to see how they withstand longer use over roads and paths with debris.

The second liner I've been experimenting with is a homemade option. Several years ago, I read a comment on a forum about someone who was going to try lining his tires with tyvek to see if it would help prevent flats. There was never any follow up to this statement, so I always wondered if it was something that could really work. In theory, it seemed reasonable because those mailing envelopes are pretty strong and durable, but I wasn't sure if it would work in real-world use.
It has been suggested that USPS mailing envelopes can be had free of charge,which is true, but I would point out that it is illegal to use USPS envelopes for anything other than mailing a package via the post office... and I don't want to feel responsible for someone breaking the law.  
The first step was to get some tyvek mailing envelopes. These can be obtained at just about any office supply store, Amazon, or many other big box retail/discount establishments, if they aren't already somewhere in your home or office.

I decided to test this liner on my fat tire bike because it's more challenging to find flat liners for this size bike tire. To make the liner, I took a mailing envelope and folded it width-wise so that it would be narrow and long. Depending on the width of the tire and the envelope in question, the envelope may need to be cut down a bit so that it isn't too wide.
Then, I repeated the folding step with the next envelope and used packing tape to attach one end of the first folded piece to one end of the second envelope. This process continues until there is enough of the envelope length to make a circle to fit inside the tire.

The worst part about this homemade creation is fitting the "liner" into the tire. I may have left a bit too much on the width, creating a bigger headache than it needed to be. The secret seems to be getting the envelopes to lay flat against the tire. Once that happens, it's much easier to get the tube in place.

I have had these tyvek liners in the bike tires for about seven months now and I have not had to deal with a flat tire. While I have ridden through the same types of debris as on the other bike with its liners, I have not yet had a goathead or any debris physically stick and stay in the tires, so I don't know if I've just been fortunate enough to not run directly over any goatheads (unlikely, but possible), or if they have simply been pushed out prior to my seeing them. The same is true for glass. I have definitely run over pieces, but nothing has stayed long enough for me to inspect at the end of a ride.

Both of these options add a small amount of weight to the bike, but both are fairly light and for the bikes in question, the added weight is not significant enough to cause issues. They are both bikes that are heavier than a race bike and are used for transportation and/or dirt riding, so a few extra ounces is not noticeable when pedaling. The ease of knowing I won't get a flat (or at least, am far less likely to get one) is worth it, certainly, to me.

I'll be continuing to test these options and look forward to updating after more long-term use is had, but in the meantime, I thought perhaps one of these might be an option for anyone looking for flat protection.

What do you use as flat protection, if anything? Have you tried retail or homemade options that worked well? I would certainly be interested in hearing about other experiences with preventing flat tires.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Frame Bag for the Surly Wednesday: ATM Handmade Goods (aka Andrew the Maker)

When I first wrote about the Surly Wednesday making its way into my life, I mentioned that I was in search of a frame bag. I was offered some suggestions here, by email, and had done my own research to see what might work.

Specifically, I wanted a frame bag because I knew, even with the frames' very small triangle, a frame bag would allow me to carry more than what I could shove into a tiny saddlebag. I've become used to being able to carry things on my bike, and even though I knew this bike probably wouldn't be used very frequently for fetching items, I still needed to carry things with me sometimes beyond a multi-tool and extra small pump.

My initial searches quickly illustrated that frame bags are not something easily found for extra small frames. Like bicycles themselves, it seems that smalls and talls often get left out of the manufacturing equation. There are a few makers who do span the range, so I shouldn't lump every company together, but as a household of less than standard height individuals, we know how hard it is to find something off the shelf in an appropriate size.

When it comes to the Wednesday, at the time of my searching, there really weren't a lot of non-custom options for the frame. There was a chance that Relevate's frame bag may have worked, but it was still a bit too long (or rather too wide at the longest point) and I had concerns that it wouldn't quite fit into the wee-sized frame triangle without some customizing of my own.  I had some money stashed from some side jobs and figured, if I wanted it to be right, I should probably look at a custom bag.

I was surprised to discover how many custom bag manufacturers exist, and that they are made in a multitude of fabrics and at various price points. Some makers seem more particular about measurements, while others are a little looser with their requests for templates of an individual's frame. After quite a bit of looking and reading, I decided on a manufacturer: ATM Handmade Goods, otherwise known as Andrew the Maker.

Why ATM? Well, that's perhaps a little more difficult to pinpoint. One reason is that I had seen his work prior, making it easy for me to know what the quality would likely be on my own custom bag. I'd read and seen photos of his work, such as here and here, so I felt a certain level of confidence going this route. It was neither the least expensive nor the fastest option, but sometimes good things are worth the wait and even extra funds.
*Image from ATM Handmade Goods Instagram feed
I also liked that Andrew makes different types of bags. I've considered a handlebar bag for this bike as well and wanted the option to have it coordinate, if I chose to go this route. From top tube bags to snack sacks and even hip packs (or fanny packs, if you prefer), the options are plentiful from ATM.

The getting started process was fairly simple. As with many custom-made goods, payment is required up front in order to get started on the project. This always unnerves me just a tad. It's not that I mind paying up front, but there's always that small amount of concern that the product could be paid for and then never arrive. But, having seen that Andrew has made bags for a few years now and has many satisfied users, I forged ahead.

After payment is received, the customer is asked to make a template of his/her frame and send it to ATM. This was a little more challenging than I would have expected, but perhaps it's because I chose to attempt it on my own, rather than asking for some assistance and an extra set of hands. It took a couple of tries to get it (close to) right, and off it went to Andrew.

Since I was going the custom route, I figured I should pick a color that wouldn't be found on every bicycle. I had to keep in mind that this bike sees time in less than ideal conditions. Snow, rain, dirt, mud, gravel are all possibilities (and probabilities) on this bike and if I chose too light a color, I knew I'd pay for that decision in the end. Still, I didn't want a boring bag that could've been picked up off the shelf in most bike shops. I knew that a brown, tan, olive, or gray fabric was probably the best way to go, but still it just seemed a little dull and the bike's frame color alone is not horribly exciting, so I had to throw something in to give it a little bit of personality.

The compromise with myself was to have the bottom, larger portion made in gray and have a print for the upper portion of the bag. That way, when the bag had mud or dirt slung on it, I wouldn't have regrets about fabric color choices - or so I hoped.

I started the process of this bag in early January. Foolishly, I believed it would be a slow time of year for Andrew and that the 6-8 week timeline that is typical for his work would perhaps be shortened. In reality, he was busy with several projects and I wouldn't see the bag for about 11 weeks.

Fortunately, our winter was - oddly - almost entirely devoid of snow, so I was riding other bikes many days. When the bag arrived it didn't disappoint in the least. I tore into the package, anxious to see it for myself and was taken aback by the brightness of the pattern I'd chosen. It wasn't a bad reaction, just a bit of shock. I loved that Andrew chose to use a bright pink for the threading and the zipper pulls. It gave the bag a near-obnoxious quality -- something that I enjoy in bicycles (see this photo for reference to my love of bright color combinations).
The bag seems rather subdued on the bike, but the color, I think, gave it a little personality - even if  the colors are clashing.
What truly mattered though was the functionality of the frame bag. The fit was great for the size of the frame, and it went on easily and without issue. The big zippers (there are compartments on each side of the bag) work well and allow for easy access. Best of all, there is a decent amount of carrying capacity, even for this rather small sized bag.
A closer look at the print with gray solid. Perhaps not everyone's favorite combo, but it makes me smile. 
I can fit quite a bit, surprisingly. One might think the bag couldn't carry much, but having the open space pockets are perfect for rolled up sweaters or other clothing, bike lock, a multi-tool, spare tube, patch kit, pump, wallet, keys, phone, camera, banana (or other food), a bottle of water, and although I haven't tried it yet, I'm pretty sure I can get a small hydration bladder in one side too (which would be great given that I have use of only one water bottle cage now).

The fabric itself is fantastic, allowing for easy cleaning with a damp towel (or at least that has been the case thus far) and often shows little sign of use. On the particular day the photo just above was taken, I'd been through several mud and water puddles and the bag looks no worse for the wear.

Speaking of water, the bag does a pretty decent job of keeping water out - at least when the zipper is closed (I had a minor incident in rain because I failed to close the zipper - which is, of course, entirely user error and not the fault of the bag or zipper). I've ridden in some average rain storms and everything inside remained dry (sans the incident just mentioned). While Andrew recommends a dry bag for items that absolutely must remain dry, I have not found water to be an issue as of yet.

My only complaint about this bag thus far is that it has caused a want for one on every bike. It's truly a great use of space in between the frame's triangle and allows for so much carrying capacity. I understand that perhaps it's impractical to put these on every bike (particularly road bikes that one really needs the water bottle cages available - though perhaps if one went in this direction, it could still work), but I could see it being practical on the commuter/around town/gravel/camping/shorter ride sorts of bicycles.

Having this frame bag also makes it far more practical to use this bike on snow days as a commuter/errand bike. That wasn't really the bike's intended purpose, but when it's the one that can get me where I need to go in less-than-sunny weather, at least I know I have the ability to carry a few items with me... perhaps not quite the same capacity as having giant panniers or baskets, but something is always better than nothing...and, for average to tall humans, the capacity would be even better.

As for a coordinating handlebar bag, I'm still thinking about it. Having just a bit more capacity for this bike could be a great thing. But, I also know it's easier to find a handlebar bag than a frame bag for a small bike. And, I am seriously contemplating a frame bag for another bicycle that sees some gravel/dirt time as well.

Overall, I couldn't have had a better experience with my first custom made bike bag, and it has become the perfect accessory for keeping those need-to-have-handy items at the ready. While I can't quite comment yet on long-term quality, I can see and feel that the bag is solidly made, and I look forward to many years of use out of it.

Have you had a custom bag made for a bicycle? How and what was your experience? Has the bag held up to its intended use? If you haven't had a custom bag made, is it a route you would consider for a bike, or is the availability of off-the-rack options better suited to your needs?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Longmont Bike Share - Zagster Has Landed!

Hi! It's been awhile. I've been busy trying to be a good human and attempting to find some sort of normal schedule with which to complete things, but (as is obvious if you've come here looking for posts and don't find anything new), somewhere along the way this space wasn't added into the schedule. Every week I say, "Ah, yes, I have many things I could be chatting about with others on E.V.L. Go woman! Go and share!" and then nothing happens because I get sidetracked with approximately 101 other things that need to get accomplished... and then I have a habit of losing interest in whatever it was I was going to share. Eeek!

When last I had shared though, I wrote about a NOS bicycle that I had ordered that hadn't yet arrived. It did finally make its way here (actually, not long after that post) and I've been happily riding it all around. Although it was a completely unnecessary bicycle to purchase, I could not help myself (which will make more sense when I share more... I think... although not much of what I do seems to make sense - only in my contorted mind that likes to make up logic).

While I'm not quite ready to share that story today, I did want to chat about a recent addition to our local transportation.

Longmont, Colorado is not exactly a hotbed for the newest or latest, nor it is the preeminent authority on most things bicycle-related. This is not to say that we don't have infrastructure or bike lanes in our community, nor that we don't have some fantastic places to ride, but rather that it seems we take a back seat to our very close neighbors in Boulder, Colorado. EVERYONE it seems has heard of Boulder, been to Boulder, knows someone who lives in Boulder, used to live in Boulder, went to school in Boulder, works in Boulder, and so on.  Boulder, Boulder, Boulder. Yes, we get it. Boulder is the Marcia Brady of cities. I would actually argue that there are many attributes Longmont possesses that Boulder simply cannot top, but that is a debate that doesn't need to be had in this time or place.

It is easy though to feel that we sometimes are the forgotten part of the county. So, about a year ago when I started hearing rumblings of a bike share program test, I was a little surprised (but secretly super excited) to see what would come of it. Mostly, I thought that it would never happen. Who comes to Longmont? Would a bike share program even get used? True, we are a very quickly growing city, but I couldn't help but wonder if such a program would ever come to fruition.

Lo and behold, this bike share program has arrived. Granted, it's an initial test to see if it is feasible, usable, practical, affordable, and so on for the city (or at least that is my understanding), but I am beyond thrilled to see this come about. On April 20, the bike share officially launched!

Why Zagster instead of B-Cycle (as Boulder and Denver already use)? Well, I suppose it made more sense for our smaller community because Zagster is able to help in many ways such as designing the right sized bike share program for our specific community, riders can use a mobile app that helps the city know what is working (and potentially, isn't) with the program and users, and perhaps most importantly for the city, Zagster has a national team of mechanics that services the bicycles allowing the city to keep focused on what needs to get done rather than on maintaining the bicycles around town.

Longmont is the third city in Colorado to join with Zagster. We are following in the footsteps (tire roll?) of both Fort Collins (which launched in March 2016) and Westminster (launched in June 2016). Zagster promotes having both flexible and affordable programs to help better serve the riders in mid-sized cities, so I think it was the right opportunity for our growing community.

I would agree that the program seems fairly affordable. While the idea of $3/hour could get a bit pricey if looking at it in terms of multiple hours, I think the one month fee of $15, or $60 for an annual membership is quite reasonable.

After hearing that a bike share program might be in the works last year, I have to admit I pretty much let it go from my mind though because I frankly didn't see it happening, so when I saw in recent weeks that it was starting soon, I had no idea where the stations would actually be located. My curiosity got the best of me right after the launch and Sam and I went on a hunt to find the stations. Sadly, I wasn't aware enough to realize I could've just logged on to Zagster's website to get the locations. It was fun to hunt them down regardless.

Ten Zagster stations currently stand in Longmont
For those who may be curious and/or local and not know where the stations are, they are listed below. There are a total of 10 stations throughout the city (I'll detail some thoughts on the "throughout" the city portion in a moment):
Mountain View near Hover St, at Longmont United Hospital
Alpine and Mountain View, just outside Centennial Pool (the station itself is on Alpine St)
Coffman and 8th, beside the main bus stop
Coffman and 5th, just to the south of the county buildings
Kimbark and 4th, at the Library
Ken Pratt and Bowen, just outside Chuburger
Ken Pratt and Hover St, right outside Oskar Blues/the new pedestrian underpass at Hover
Off of Quail Rd, just outside the Rec Center
Sunset St just north of Pike Rd, outside of Oskar Blues Brewery
Nelson and Airport Rd, outside Cyclhops

In case it isn't obvious, Oskar Blues was one of the sponsors of Zagster (also sponsoring the program are Longmont United Hospital, Envision Longmont, Boulder County, and Visit Longmont), so their four locations in town have stations just outside.

I believe the city and Zagster did a fairly decent job of spreading out the locations of the stations, but I am disappointed to see that none were placed on the north side of the city. In the future, it would be nice to see additions at the north west side of town (perhaps at Lake McIntosh or at Hover and 21st?) and another station on the north side (perhaps at Main St and 21st or even outside of the Walmart at Hwy 66/Main St), but I realize this is still early and a test to see how the program is used and potentially where it can go. There also aren't businesses to sponsor the bicycles in those locations -- well, at least the north west locations. Perhaps as sponsors are added, it may help with adding stations as well.

But, how do these bicycles ride and is the phone app easy to deal with? Well, I wanted to know so I set out to test them both for myself.

Downloading the phone app was super easy. I have an android phone, so I visited the Play Store, searched for Zagster, and installed the app. I did note that the app doesn't have a very high rating (2.7 stars to be exact), so that concerned me mildly, but then I also considered that we humans today like to complain a lot about our electronics not working instantly and the way we want, so I wasn't entirely sure how much of the low-star-rating is whining and how many were/are legitimate complaints about usability. It's a nearly 33MB download, so it took a couple of minutes (or perhaps my phone is just slow), but then I was ready for my first test.

To set up the app, the user enters his/her name, phone number, email, birth date and then selects the location s/he would like to join (meaning, the city's bike share being used). There is a long user agreement to agree to (I did scan for important notices, but did not thoroughly read word-for-word the entire agreement, but it seemed reasonable... you're going to be charged if you don't return the bike, don't do illegal things, lock the bike up if it's left unattended, and so on). It took a few minutes to get the whole thing set up, so if one were in a hurry, I'd say setting up the app beforehand is probably a good idea. The user attaches a credit card to the account so that s/he is billed in accordance with the plan selected (hourly, monthly, annually).
After that was set up, I set off to take my first bike share ride! I decided to try the system out at the Longmont United Hospital location. At first, I couldn't find the bikes, but I think it was because I expected to find them outside of the emergency room entrance (I have no idea why this was my initial thought), but they are actually easy to find, just outside and to the left of the main entrance. Which makes sense.
When I arrived at the station, I was greeted by a sign that briefly explains the program, as well as the locked bikes.
The station has locks for 10 bicycles (there are a total of 50 bikes available throughout the city), but a few spaces were empty. I admit that I did go by a few and squeeze the tires to see if they had air, and they all seemed to be in functioning shape (which they should be as the program has only been open a very short time). Had any of the bicycles required air, there is a pump available at the station.
Checking out the bicycle was easy. The app gets opened, the user types in the bicycle's individual number, and the app responds with a code to unlock the bike. The user punches in the four digit code and removes the cable from just below the saddle, releasing the bike.
I took off on the bicycle and immediately ran into a problem. The seat post wouldn't stay put. I got off the bike and tried tightening the seat collar with the quick release, but it still sank down almost immediately and continued to shift side to side throughout my ride. I decided not to bother with it for my test because I knew I wasn't going to be traveling far, but it was a little concerning to me - particularly for someone who may be riding with little to no experience with bicycles.

The bicycle itself is manufactured by Breezer, and the rider sits upright with easy mounting and dismounting via the step-through frame.
The twist shifters easily transitioned between the 8 gears available and the hand brakes worked very well, even when descending hills.
The bicycles come equipped with fenders and a chainguard, as well as a front basket and a bell (that had a pleasant sound that can be heard here).
The basket has capacity to hold a fair amount, though it is not as large as some might like to see. To be fair, I think the basket would hold a moderately sized grocery bag, so it's certainly adequate to hold a few items. I also think that if a person happened to have a strap of some sort with them, the rear rack could be used to attach items. There is also a mounting area at the side of the rear rack to attach a pannier, making additional storage a possibility if the rider were prepared.
I personally love that each bicycle comes equipped with dynamo powered front and rear lights, making it easier to use these bicycles both in the evening/early morning, and in lower-visibility situations.
The saddle was reasonably comfortable (given that I am quite particular about my saddles), and I took in to account the reality that most people are going to ride these bikes for 1-3 miles at most.
The tires seemed adequate for city-type terrain; meaning that they have appropriate tread for covering pavement, packed dirt, asphalt, and so on.

During my ride, I went over several bumps, up and down small to average sized city of Longmont hills, and endured a stint with some rough winds, and the bike handled adequately. One particularly violent wind gust had me correcting to get the bike back on track, but I suspect that would be more an oddity than the norm as most inside-the-city rides are protected by buildings, at least somewhat, from overly gusty winds. The gearing seems appropriate for the hills that could or would be tackled in our city and it was easy to just get on and ride without a lot of fussing. The bike I rode was slightly rattly (something I wouldn't expect from a set of new bicycles), but I also understand that this is not a personal bike being set up to my own specifications, likes/dislikes, and so on, and that the components being used are not (of course) the most expensive.

When I returned the bike to a station, I went back into the app to end the ride. It provided instructions as to how to ensure the bike is properly locked (it required holding the lock button and sliding the orange handle down on the bike to lock back into place) and how to end the ride. Overall, a simple, easy to use experience.

The seatpost conundrum was still weighing on me though, so I went around the station to test other seatposts to see if they were any different. Of the handful I tried there, none of them would stay in place with any amount of hand pressure applied. The seatposts all moved easily from side to side and up and down without even the weight of a body on the saddle. I am not a tall rider, so it wasn't a huge deal for me not to be able to get the saddle precisely where I wanted, but it still seems concerning to me that both taller riders would be stuck in a very low position, and that even riding the saddle at it's lowest point results in movement from side to side.

Also of note is Zagster's "strong recommendation" for riders to wear a helmet when riding; however, there are no helmets available to use when checking out a bike. In the case of someone traveling by foot (as I was on this particular day), I'd have no need to have a bike helmet on my person, so it would be nice to see bike helmets available for use with the bikes. Perhaps even making it part of the bike checkout process would be simple enough and encourage riders to wear a helmet.

Additionally, after my test ride I emailed Zagster with questions about the seatpost and inquiring whether this is typical of bike share bicycles at other locations, or if it was simply a run of bad luck at my particular location. As of the writing of this post, I have not received a response, but I will update with information when it becomes available.

During my email contact I inquired about pricing structure. The wording of the user agreement sounds as though there is an annual fee associated with the use of Zagster, and I wanted to clarify that matter as well. I also wanted to know whether monthly and annual users are automatically charged or if charges only take place if Zagster is used during the given time frame. Again, I have not yet heard back in this regard but will update as soon as I have more information.

In the meantime, if you are a local, I encourage you to try out our new bike share. If you have tried it, I'd love to hear how your experience went and if you see yourself (or family, visitors, etc) using this new service in our fair city. If you aren't local, do you have a bike share system available in your city? Have you encountered any problems in using the system/bikes? How has your city ensured that the bike share program continues to be available to inhabitants and visitors alike? If you'd like a bit more information, there is also a Times-Call article that can be found here.

Post Script: I heard back from Zagster regarding the seatpost issue. They were helpful in their reply and stated that the seatpost should be movable, but shouldn't shift after it is secured (which is, yes, obvious), so they are sending a mechanic out to have a look at the particular bike in question. I am still curious as other bikes at that particular corral seemed to have the same problem, but we shall see! 

Additionally, I received further clarification about the fees associated with the bike share. So, for the hourly rental, it is simply $3/hour and no recurring charges take place beyond that. With the monthly and annual subscription, the fees are billed every month, but there is also an additional charge of $3/hour AFTER the first hour of riding. So, assuming that an individual only needs the bike for short amounts of time, there would be no additional fees, but if the bike is out longer than an hour, subscribers should expect to see the $3/hour charge after the first hour. If ever a user wants to cancel the account, s/he can email or call, or use the website online to change or end service.

It was also pointed out that if ever a person is in need of immediate/urgent assistance, s/he should call Zagster's phone number, which is readily available via the app service.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Eerran... hoo?

It's been about a month since I've written anything here (I like to point out the obvious). I'm trying not to feel guilty, but it's challenging some days. I think I've just come to accept that there may be long pauses in between times that I write here. And that's okay. At least for me it's okay. I have come to realize that these are reflective periods and necessary for me, though I should probably use this space to sort through thoughts during these times.

There have been some happenings and hope for happenings around here, so I think it's had my brain sidetracked. There's been chatter about moving to the city. Maybe not right in the heart of everything (though that thought crossed our minds as well), but at least right on the edge of happenings. This turned into house hunting, which turned into a smack in the face with the realization that, holy moly, the last two years have brought huge increases in property values throughout the state and can we actually even afford to move? Should we even consider moving? We live in a lovely community, but it's questionable as to whether it's the right place for us. There is no resolution to that thought at the moment, but it's been a huge distraction. It's hard to stay focused on the every day when there are so many thoughts and potential outcomes.

In addition, I purchased a bicycle frame during the second week of January, and I'm still awaiting its arrival. It was an already-built-frame, but new-old-stock, and it was supposed to be a few weeks before I'd receive it (it required paint as it was still raw), but apparently my definition of a few weeks is different than the company's definition. After a quick inquiry, I was told that the "painter is really slow right now." So, I have no idea when it will arrive at this point. But, hopefully, I'll be able to share more about that sometime soon. I am super excited about it though, and I feel like a kid who's been told Disneyland is in the future, but that day never seems to actually arrive.

As you may recall from my last writing, my goal was to try to ride every day this year. All was going well until the last week of February, but things quickly came apart at the seams. I may have to revise the goal itself (which was the point of making it a goal rather than a resolution), but I've had some interesting encounters during my rides. Even though many of them have been quite short, it's fascinated me how many interactions I've had with others simply because I was on a bicycle. I thought I'd share one of the brief encounters for now, but hopefully I will have time to share more moving forward.

The gym seems to provide me with some very interesting and entertaining conversation. While I'm working out, I tend to go into my own little world, headphones on, drowning out the people and activities happening around me, but before and after, I have to say I've had some fascinating encounters with others over the years. If an odd conversation is  to be had, one can almost wager that I have had it at some point in or around the gym. It's as though these spaces are magnets for people to approach me for these non-typical moments.

Today's tale isn't necessarily all that unusual, but it made me smile, so I had to share it. I was leaving the gym at the same moment that an older gentleman was making his way inside.

"Lovely day for a ride," he began as he stood aside my bicycle.

"It is. It really is beautiful," I responded, looking up from unlocking my bike to his smiling face.

"I used to ride my bike all the time," he started again. "I had a stroke though and now they won't let me ride it anymore. That's why I'm here. Trying to get in a little movement. My wife and I had matching Schwinn's. They were really beautiful." His eyes moved up toward the sky as if remembering specific moments on his bike. "I really miss riding my bicycle though."

I smiled. "It's great that you're here and getting in some exercise," I wanted to share that a trike might be a good option, but before I could even formulate the thought fully, he was on to other matters.

"Eee.. eeeuuu...errran..." he stammered a bit but kept trying, "Eerran... hoo?"

Confused for a moment, I wondered if there was a health incident taking place until I realized he was staring at the rear of my bicycle at my saddle bag. "Errandonnee? Did you see my patch?" I asked.
He looked at me confused. "What is that?"

I couldn't help but smile. How strange a word it must seem to others, though once it is explained it becomes clearer to most. Even I had to pause for a moment to think of the most efficient way to explain the errandonnee.

"There are a group of people who participate in a challenge to ride a certain number and type of errands by bicycle during a specified time. If the person completes the challenge, they are awarded the patch," I said. "I chose to put mine on my bag since this is the bike I use to run many errands normally."

"Oh," he responded, and then paused for a moment before continuing on, "That sounds like fun!" With that, he went to the front door of the gym and proceeded in.

I couldn't help but smile during the ride home. Sometimes the simplest interactions make for the best days. I only wish every interaction at the gym was as pleasant. Most of them have me leaving in anger or disgust (or both).