New cassette – riding shows a real improvement.

Harris Cyclery Century Special 13-30, 9 speed

It’s been a couple of weeks now that I’ve been riding Trekkie with the new Harris Cyclery 13-30 9 speed cassette. I bought it with the recommended Sachs chain and had both installed by Smart Cycles, who did the swap overnight. Shifting is crisp and clean across the cassette and up and down the chain rings. I had thought about changing the rings to lower the ratios further but decided to wait and see how widening the cassette from 12-25 to 13-30 would feel. So far, the extra points have made a real difference, allowing me to find climbing gears on which I can keep my cadence up and not struggle or lose form. I haven’t had to use my 30T chain ring yet, which I sometimes dropped down to for some of the short, steep climbs on my routes because I needed something lower than 42/25. Looks like I’ll have plenty of reserve, which was a goal, and don’t have to lower the front rings. While researching cassettes I learned that 11-32 are quite popular on triples and compact doubles. For the type of fitness riding I do – and the terrain I ride – on Trekkie, I didn’t think I would get much use out of the 11T and 12T cogs, so it seemed that starting with a higher cog like 13 would be a better choice for me. If I owned, or was buying, a new bike with a 10 or 11 speed cassette compared to my 9, the 11-32 seems to be a good choice, as it gives a wider range and the option of bigger gears when you want them.

Bike friendly Madison, WI

Cycling in Madison WI

Cycling in Madison WI

Business took me on my first trip ever to Wisconsin and Madison. Over the years I’ve read about Madison’s cycling friendliness, it’s ranked 7th by Bicycling Magazine, and now had my first opportunity to see it up close.

The first clue came at the airport at the Madison tourism/information station where their bike map was prominently displayed. No ordinary bike map, this one comes with extensive, detailed and illustrated instructions for riding safely, commuting, registration and laws, pre-ride checklists, parental advice, and links to government resources, bicycle organizations and contacts. If not already, this map and information should be a standard everywhere.

For routes, the map shows bike lanes or paved shoulders, bike paths, and even where the bike path runs on sidewalks. Bike boxes provide an extra margin of safety, these set the traffic back a few feet from the intersection. And bike boulevards are specially marked low volume, low speed, local streets that “take the shared roadway bike facility to a new level.”

Madison appeared to be on the flat side. Although I didn’t get a chance to ride, I saw lots of bikes on porches and locked-up in racks around the city.

After seeing this, I’m going to contact the city to see if we can put together a few basic maps and add signage, as David Marcus suggested in a comment to an earlier blog post.

Harris Cyclery 13-30 cassette

Not for Mountie my commuter bike, but for Trekkie my road bike. The stock cassette – 12-25, 9 speed was too narrow for the local terrain – lots of short, steep climbs, and a lower level of fitness from less time on the road. I swapped out to a 13-30 9 speed Shimano cassette and am now much, much happier. Harris Cyclery builds this custom cassette and they were terrific to deal with. I had the parts shipped to my local store – I bought their recommended chain – and they made the change. I’m training for a 135 mile in late June, just me and a friend doing a ride we wanted to do for years, and this cassette will help. To be honest, I think the biggest benefit is psychological, knowing that I have some gears in reserve relaxes my mind and gives me the confidence that I can get up and over whatever is in front.

Bike to Work Day Mayoral Proclamation

A letter to the city with a request for a mayoral proclamation was warmly received; it looks like it’ll happen. In email back and forth I learned of an upcoming Arts festival where biking is being considered as a way to get from one venue to another. Promising – connection between cycling and arts to bring about changes.

Update: May 14: Mayor Moccia issued a proclamation and presented it at the bike rack of Norwalk’s main railroad station, South Norwalk.

Joy of finding a new path

My commute is along a very busy local road with an entrance to I-95, the major commuting highway. There’s no shoulder, so I have to ride on the sidewalk, and drivers only have the on-ramp in mind. Crossing over the highway can be dangerous as cars are trying to get on from two directions; then there’s the exit ramp to contend with. I started wondering if there was a route change that might help me avoid these issues and improve the commute. As I was riding this morning I remembered a turn I made some years ago while driving that weaves you under the highway and opens onto a back road. I used it a few times but found that it wasn’t that helpful for me. But it did could make sense for a bike. I took it – no more dangerous crossing and no more riding further along the busy road. An increase in safety and peace of mind, and all it took was a thought. It made me realize that it’s important to overcome the habits of the “driving mind” if commuting is to take deeper root in less-involved cycling communities.

Commuting again

Now that temps are over 40 in the morning, restarted commuting. Decided this year to use a different station, about twice as far, at about 3 miles. Takes an extra 7-8 minutes each way, but doubling the distance and time on the bike is good and doesn’t require an extra level of commitment.