May 28, 2008

The Bike Friday

Five weeks ago I placed my order for a custom handmade Bike Friday Pocket Rocket. Today the waiting ended. The Bike Friday was delivered around noon to a very excited Melissa. I had to wait until I got home around 7:30 pm to play with it, but it was worth the wait. It arrived packed up in it's suitcase. It took only a couple minutes to assemble--it packs much more easily than my old Dahon. I was riding it up and down the street in no time at all.

Bike Friday in suitcase

Bike Friday in suitcase

Unpacking Bike Friday

Partially assembled Bike Friday Pocket Rocket

Fully assembled Bike Friday Pocket Rocket on work stand in bike hole

Rob test riding new Pocket Rocket

Rob test riding new Pocket Rocket

Custom built for Ragfield by Green Gear Cycling, Eugene OR

Wow, it is sweet. The bike weighs 23 lbs, rather than the 33 lbs of the Dahon. Folding bikes do look a little strange, but this one does not feel strange. It rides just like any other road bike. The gearing is similar to that of other road bikes despite the smaller wheels due to the Shimano Capreo cassette & hub. The cassette goes all the way down to a 9 tooth cog, rather than the traditional 12 or 11 tooth cog on road bikes with larger wheels.

I will probably take it on a long ride tomorrow, but so far I'm very pleased with the Bike Friday.

The Dahon

It is with mixed emotions that I write about my 2003 Dahon Helios XL folding bike. I've had this bike for 4 1/2 years and it has served me well, but I've decided to replace it. Tomorrow I should be receiving a brand new Bike Friday Pocket Rocket.

The Dahon was never my primary bike. I got it to ride around town and to take with me on trips (both auto and plane). The wide, low pressure tires do better on bumpy city streets and sidewalks than the thin, high pressure tires on my road bike. It has fenders and an internally geared planetary rear hub to deal better with the nasty weather I sometimes encounter riding to & from work. The rack allows me to haul my computer or other miscellaneous items. It folds up in about 15 seconds. It fits into a nylon bag that can be carried around. In about 15 minutes it can be disassembled further to fit into a standard sized Samsonite Oyster suitcase for airline travel.

2003 Dahon Helios XL

2003 Dahon Helios XL folded

Dahon Helios XL frame inside suitcase

Dahon Helios XL inside suitcase

Dahon Helios XL inside suitcase

The bike has been great and it has served its purpose well, but it's far from perfect. It works well to get around town, but it's not great for long rides... or fast rides... or uphill rides... or downhill rides. It's a bit on the heavy side. The internally geared hub is low maintenance, but it has a lot of friction, it's a pain to install and remove from the bike, and it's difficult to adjust properly. My new Pocket Rocket should shine where the Dahon has fallen short.

I have flown to San Francisco with the Dahon 3-4 times and taken it on numerous car trips. It is my usual transportation for marathon watching (Madison, Green Bay, Des Moines, Chicago Lakeshore). Aside from that I ride it to work on a rotating basis with a couple of my other bikes.

I'll leave you with some photos of the Dahon in action:

Rob on the Dahon during Chicago Lakeshore Marathon, 2004

Melissa next to the Dahon after Chicago Lakeshore Marathon, 2004

Rob after crossing Golden Gate Bridge on the Dahon, 2004

The Dahon on Lombard Street in San Francisco, 2004

Melissa running Green Bay Marathon with the Dahon's rear wheel in background, 2005

Rob with the Dahon at Marin headlands with San Francisco in background, 2005

The Dahon folded up under Rob's desk, 2008

May 24, 2008

The Night Before the Madison Marathon

We made it to Madison, picked up Melissa's race packet, checked into the hotel, and ate dinner at the Olive Garden. Soon we will complete the pre-marathon ritual by watching American Flyers then go to bed. The marathon starts tomorrow morning at 7:10 am CDT. I will attempt to post updates of her progress either on this site ( or on Twitter (

If possible I will try to post some photos as well, but that will be a little more difficult. The problem is that I'll be blogging from my phone, but there's not a good way to get photos from my camera onto my phone (yes, my phone has a camera, but it sucks). I have all the hardware necessary to transfer the photos using two different methods, but neither method has the necessary software to work correctly. I have an iPod camera connector, which will download photos directly from a camera to an iPod, but this connector is not software compatible with the iPhone. Additionally, I have an Eye-Fi memory card for the camera that can automatically upload photos, but only to the internet (not to other WiFi enabled devices like my iPhone). I would surely love an easier way to transfer the photos.

Anyway, check back tomorrow morning and prepare to hit the refresh button in your browser.

Apparently one of the parking spots outside our hotel room is off limits...

May 23, 2008

The USB Batteries

Here's another office cleaning find. Last fall I came across some interesting batteries on the internet and I purchased a few to try them out. They are rechargeable AA batteries that have a built in USB plug so they can charge directly from a computer. It's a neat idea. There are times when I've wanted to charge batteries but I didn't want to bring an extra charger along with me. They were surprisingly cheap (around $3 per battery, rather than $10 per battery for competing products).

They came from Deal Extreme, a Chinese gadget seller with surprisingly cheap/free shipping to the U.S. The catch is that it's postal service and it takes a couple weeks to arrive. It doesn't appear that Deal Extreme has any of these left, but their are similar (and more expensive) units available elsewhere on the web.

Somewhat to my surprise, the batteries actually work as advertised. They are not the longest lasting rechargeables around (I think they have a 1350 mAh capacity rather than the larger 2200 mAh). I used them in my bike headlight all winter and now Melissa uses them in her bike headlight. I could easily charge them while at work without the need to bring a separate charger.

The batteries bear the brand name "Exceed King"

Each battery has a cap on the bottom that, when removed, reveals a built in USB plug.

The translated directions on the back of the package are fairly hilarious. In case you can't read it in the picture, it says:

When battery capacity insufficiency, takes down the the battery the nearcathode black to be partial, reveals the battery the USB connection, inserts the computer the USB place already to be possible to charge, duration of charging 4 hours.


Befre the use please confirmed the battery cathode. Please hastilyopens the solution battery, the electric appliance does not need to besupposed for a long time to take out the battery, the battery hastilyinvests in the fire.

There you have it. Just try not to hastilyinvest in the fire.

The Missing Christmas Gift

For Christmas at my grandparents' house we often do a gift exchange where each person in the exchange gives a gift to one specific person rather than every other person. The idea is to make things simpler. To decide who gives gifts to whom* we draw names from a hat.

This past Christmas there was a mistake somewhere (we still don't really know what happened), but at Christmas one person ended up with two gifts and another ended up with none (sorry Dad). Either somebody bought a gift for the wrong person, or the same name appeared twice in the hat.

Anyway, while cleaning out my office today (I have the day off work for the Memorial day weekend) I came across the two name tags Melissa & I drew from the hat: Marcia & Barb. I apparently kept these for some reason, perhaps to use as evidence in the eventual trial...

These were the two people for whom* Melissa & I bought gifts. So it wasn't either of us who screwed up :)

(*) According to John Gutzmer, the word "whom" is the formal version of "who."

May 22, 2008

The U-Haul

We just finished helping Aimee & Brett load up most of their stuff into a U-Haul for their move to Indianapolis. It barely fit. In fact, it looked a lot like the U-Haul from our last move...

May 21, 2008

The Stage Race

Last weekend in West Lafayette, IN some friends and I participated in a bike race. Actually, it was three separate bike races which together formed a stage race. My Wild Card cycling team had 6 riders in the cat 4-5 race: Thomas, Luke, Mark, Karl, Dan, and Rob.

The Criterium

The first stage on Saturday was a criterium in a residential neighborhood near the campus of Purdue University. Criterium races are okay, but they're definitely my least favorite. The idea is that the course is very short and racers ride several laps around the course for a set period of time. After the set period of time the first person to cross the finish line is the winner. Crits are generally very fast with lots of turning in close proximity to other riders, so there's a little bit more danger involved. Perhaps danger isn't the best word. There's just more possibility for mistakes, both by you and the other riders.

On the bright side the roads are closed to traffic. Err, uh, at least they're supposed to be. After warming up a little we were informed that the race organizers were having some traffic control problems. First, the course was going to be shortened by half, leaving only a 0.6 mile loop. Second, a couple of the roads were going to be open to traffic!

In the words of GOB Bluth, COME ON!

As we lined up to start the race the officiant explained a few rules. He explicitly stated that riders who get lapped should stay to the far right of the road so as not to interfere with the lead riders. Fine.

The race started. There were 57 riders. Now on narrow residential streets that may or may not be open to traffic, we could really only ride three or four wide across the road. This meant there was a huge distance from the first riders to the last riders at the start, probably a quarter mile. The fastest riders only needed to gain maybe a third of a mile to lap the slowest riders. That's exactly what happened, and it didn't take long.

I started a little conservatively in the middle of the pack. The lap had a short steep hill (which was to my advantage), then a long downhill with a sharp turn at the bottom (which was to my disadvantage). I passed around four or five riders each lap for about 24 minutes of the 35 minute race. The leaders were still well ahead of me and were close to catching up and lapping me.

When I finished the lap it sounded like the race directors yelled at me (as well as everyone else) to get off the course. What? The next lap they did the same thing. The pace car passed me and the lead rider was not too far behind so I moved over to the right. When I finished that lap I heard more clearly what the directors were saying, and indeed they told me to get off the course. I stopped (many other riders had already stopped) and asked one of my Wild Card teammates what was going on. Apparently they wanted all lapped riders off the course (I actually hadn't been lapped yet). Okay, I guess, but that wasn't what they told us before the race. Why on earth did they change their minds in the middle of the race? I guess I'll never know. Only 13 riders remained in the race until the finish. My teammate Thomas finished 2nd in the final sprint. Kudos to him.

I apparently tied for 17th place with every other rider who was pulled on the same lap. Since this was a stage race the finishing time actually did matter, so there was some confusion how this was going to work when the majority of riders didn't actually finish. The organizers prorated the finishing times. I was a little over one minute behind the leader after 24 minutes of racing. Worst case scenario I would have been two minutes behind after 35 minutes of racing. So my prorated time was... 5:21 back.


The prorating was equally bad for everyone, so it's not really worth getting too upset. But lots of people take themselves a little too seriously and there were about 40 super pissed cyclists after that race.

The Road Race

Early the next morning was the road race. The 22 mile race took place mostly on a four mile loop in the country that included a pretty big hill that was clearly going to be decisive. Again, I started in the middle and worked my way up to the top third or so before we reached the hill. Several riders dropped off the back of the group on the climb. The same thing happened the next lap, and each lap after.

I stayed with the lead group the whole race. The group was down to 25 or so riders by the last lap. I thought someone might try to escape on the last hill, but the strong headwind at the top prevented that. We approached the finish line as a big group. The pace started to slow, as everyone wanted to conserve energy for the finish. Thomas was again well placed near the front of the group, so I shot to the front and whipped up the pace to lead out the sprint for him. I led for 400 meters or so until the sprint started about 200 meters before the finish. Thomas finished 2nd again, though a different rider won. My teammate Luke was also in the lead group and finished 8th. I rolled across the finish line in 15th. I was much happier with the outcome of this race than I was with the previous race. It was good that I not only stayed with the lead group, but was strong enough at the end to try to help Thomas & Luke finish higher up. I didn't really stand a chance in the sprint anyway.

The Time Trial

Finally, on Sunday afternoon was a 5.8 mile time trial. This is a race where each rider is timed individually, starting 30 seconds apart so they can't work together. The course was the same as part of the road race, and it included the same big hill. As an experienced triathlete I generally enjoy time trials (which are identical to the bike portion of a triathlon). I also enjoy riding on hills. Perfect... except for one thing. Take a guess what that was.

The course was point to point and it was almost entirely into the wind. Heavy riders have a harder time riding uphill than I do. I have a harder time riding into the wind than many others. The reason? Physics. I'm fairly big/tall and I'm kind of lightweight so I have a high surface area to weight ratio. Higher surface area causes more wind resistance. Lower weight (mass) means less momentum one can use to counter this effect. I shouldn't make excuses, but when it's related to physics I can hardly resist...

I rode reasonably well, but not as fast as I would have liked. I tied for 19th place. I averaged around 21 mph into the wind, while the winner averaged around 24 mph. Thomas also tied for 19th, and Luke was 13 seconds faster in 15th place.

The General Classification

Since the time gaps between the riders were not that large after the criterium and the road race, the time trial results pretty much determined the final overall stage race results. Here's how the team did:


We were not quite as dominant as we were in Hillsboro, but we had a solid race.

May 19, 2008

The Race for the Cure

Okay, so this is a little late. The weekend before last Melissa and I travelled to Peoria for Mother's Day weekend and while we were there we both ran in the Race for the Cure. We missed this race last year while we were in Nicaragua, and we were somewhere else the year before. Prior to that Melissa has run this race most every year.

This Peoria Race for the Cure used to be women-only, so I could go and watch but I couldn't participate. A couple years ago they changed that and allowed men to run and walk at the event. I think this was a good change. For the actual race they still started the women first, so a woman will be the first person to cross the finish line. This is great. Unfortunately, they only left a 10 minute gap between the women's start & the men's start. That means that men running 18 minute 5k times will be finishing at the same time as women running 28 minute 5k times and finishing ahead of women running slower than that. Out of a field of 433 women, this turns out to be quite a few (around 250 according to the results).

The race itself went as well as I could have hoped. I ran 18:23, which is only 11 seconds slower than my last 5k and this one had more hills. I ran more even splits this time (5:53, 6:01, 5:53) than the last race, so I'm pleased with that. I finished in 6th place overall (out of 145) and 2nd 1st in my age group.

The only real problem, as I alluded to a moment ago, was that I had to dodge 250 women as I was running. We passed a couple of stragglers in the first mile. As soon as we hit the first mile marker we caught up with the back of the pack. Over the second mile there were people spread out maybe five wide across the road, which wasn't that bad. There was usually a clear path along one side or the other. By the time we reached the third mile the runners were spread out more like eight or ten wide and there wasn't always a clear path down one side or the other. So for the third mile we had to do some fancy footwork to weave in and out of the runners.

To put it simply, the 10 minute gap was not ideal. I like the idea of having the women start first in this event which is primarily aimed at women, but in that case the gap needs to be longer to give more women a chance to finish and clear the course a little better for the next wave of runners. Even waiting an extra five minutes would make a big difference. Waiting an extra 10 minutes (20 minute gap) would have cleared nearly all the runners off the course.

Despite my complaining, it wasn't that bad. I was happy just to be able to run my first Race for the Cure. As Melissa mentioned we couldn't track down any of the little cards to write down the names of people close to you who have been affected by breast cancer, but we certainly had them in our thoughts. My aunt Sharon passed away two years ago after a nine year battle with breast cancer. Despite her deteriorating health she was one of the most cheerful people I've ever known. She set great example how to live life to the fullest and I miss her dearly.

May 9, 2008

The Diabetes

I received a letter today from my health insurance provider that began as follows:

Dear Member,

Our records show that you have been treated for:
 • diabetes

The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with diabetes...

I don't have diabetes, but I do appreciate the concern. I did have diabetes for a few weeks in the fall of 2006. Okay, I didn't really have diabetes then either, but a Nicaraguan doctor told me I did, and who was I to argue.

It began with the unfortunate incident of my extreme dehydration our first week in Nicaragua that resulted in a trip across the island to the hospital. As I was lying in bed swatting gnats away a man came in the room and started asking questions (in Spanish) about my diabetes. This caused a great deal of confusion to both Melissa and me, as I didn't have diabetes. Eventually, despite the language barrier, we realized the guy was telling us I had a very high blood sugar.

A normal blood sugar level is less than 110 mg/dl. 126 or higher is considered diabetic. Mine was 246. We tried explaining to the guy that I didn't have diabetes, but he didn't believe it. As we were trying to figure out what was going on we noticed the word "GLUCOSE" "DEXTROSE" printed on the IV bag that was draining into my arm. Hmm. We pointed this out to the guy and he agreed that a non-glucose IV would be better in this situation. Unfortunately, this hospital didn't have one. So we took an "ambulance" ride (in an SUV) to the other side of the volcano to the other hospital on the island which did have non-glucose IV bags on hand.

We spent the night there. By morning my blood sugar had dropped to 170. By the next afternoon it was down to 101 and I was released. A couple days later I came back for a follow up and my blood sugar was 105.

My friend Brett mailed me a blood sugar testing machine, which arrived in less than one week (one of only two parcels we successfully received in the year we were there). I watched what I ate for 6 weeks or so until I took a trip back to the U.S. My blood sugar was holding steady in the low 90's. My doctor at home verified that I did not in fact have diabetes.

Since that time I occasionally start stories with "Back when I had diabetes..."

May 1, 2008

The Spring




The Month of May National Bike Month, so get out and ride a bike. The temperature will be in the 70's today.

Here's a well written piece by a C-U resident:

The Crosswind

Just as I finished complaining about the ridiculous April headwinds, the leaders of tonight's ride decided to head mainly East in a strong southerly wind. Spending part of the time on the correct side of the double echelon helped a little, but the rest was pretty brutal. Well April is over, and I can only assume the wind will die down tomorrow. Right?

Speaking of the end of April, I just did a quick tally and my ride mileage was just shy of 600 for the month (down from 831 miles in April 2006). I wonder how much of this I can blame on the horrible winter we've had...

Here's what I've been doing this year.

January 2008

BikeDistance# RidesAvg per Ride
Bianchi83.6 Mile136.43077 Mile
Big Red3. Mile13. Mile
Dahon32.6 Mile65.43333 Mile
Thundercougarfalconbird17.52 Mile117.52 Mile
Total136.72 Mile216.51048 Mile

February 2008

BikeDistance# RidesAvg per Ride
Bianchi138.23 Mile206.9115 Mile
Dahon20.8 Mile36.93333 Mile
Litespeed16. Mile116. Mile
Thundercougarfalconbird165.12 Mile533.024 Mile
Total340.15 Mile2911.7293 Mile

March 2008

BikeDistance# RidesAvg per Ride
Bianchi67.2 Mile135.16923 Mile
Dahon6.5 Mile16.5 Mile
Thundercougarfalconbird516.63 Mile1534.442 Mile
Total590.33 Mile2920.3562 Mile

April 2008

BikeDistance# RidesAvg per Ride
Bianchi3.6 Mile13.6 Mile
Big Red19.14 Mile29.57 Mile
Dahon51.8 Mile124.31667 Mile
Litespeed37.1 Mile137.1 Mile
Thundercougarfalconbird486.26 Mile1337.4046 Mile
Total597.9 Mile2920.6172 Mile

January - April 2008

BikeDistance# RidesAvg per Ride
Bianchi292.63 Mile476.22617 Mile
Big Red22.14 Mile37.38 Mile
Dahon111.7 Mile225.07727 Mile
Litespeed53.1 Mile226.55 Mile
Thundercougarfalconbird1185.53 Mile3434.8685 Mile
Total1665.1 Mile10815.4176 Mile