Busy with a Side of Traffic

When I was still in grad school (was that over a year ago?) the common theme was that everyone was too busy to do anything except what they were doing (or what they decided they wanted to do).  “Busyness” is of course the way Academia likes to define its worth, and that trickles down fairly rapidly to the proletariat.  Advisors are so busy they have no time to meet with grad students; grad students are so busy they have no time to meet with undergrads they are teaching…and everyone talks about it all the time.  I’ve seen this since I’ve started my current job, but only tangentially, and I blame circumstances more than culture (maybe more on this later).  In many places, chronic busyness is a badge of honor, because if you aren’t scrambling, you aren’t trying to do all the things.

This brings me to bicycle commuting, of course.  I ride to work every day, year round, and have done so for at least five years now.  It’s not a long commute.  For the record, I had a vehicle during grad school, and now we have a family vehicle, but I don’t use it to commute.  What I’ve noticed about commuting (and speaking with other commuters) is a similar badge of honor: how much your ride here sucked.  This can be expressed in number of drivers (“there was so much traffic”), as quality (“man, I saw so many bad drivers today”), or as machine bringers of death (“I almost died so many times last year”).  

The problem with all that is the difference between talking to fellow commuters about this (“I feel your pain”) and talking to the rest of your social circle (or strangers).  It’s a mixed message, especially when speaking with people who don’t commute by bicycle.  On one hand, you’re trying to convince them (aren’t we all?) by telling them how wonderful it is (the exercise! the sights and sounds!  the freedom!  the savings!)…and on the other hand you’re complaining about how much it sucks.  That’s right–all that “poor me, I almost died” is turning people off to commuting!  Isn’t that crazy?  If you were listening to this, which side would you believe?

Best of Craigslist 2014-07-24

I did not write this post, I promise.

To The Cyclists on University – 27 (University)
Keep calm. Fellow cyclist here; not here to run you off the road.

So, we got bike symbols painted on University. Sweet! Maybe less people will harass us now that it’s clear we actually belong in the street and not on the sidewalk.

Yeah, let me repeat that: now that we have bicycle arrows painted on the street, fellow cyclists, we need to be utilizing that resource. Not riding on the sidewalk anymore like a bunch of kids. I saw a mother out with her 5-year old daughter sharing the lane with cars today. If little girls can do it, you can do it.

We also need to be following the rules. Like adults. No one is going to support putting in more bicycle lanes if we keep blowing through intersections and acting like a bunch of arrogant, above-the-law, holier-than-thou assholes. And I’m as guilty as anyone of doing it, especially while riding in a pack.

Just because we finally got a little more space on the road doesn’t mean we have to hog the whole lane. Sure, it’s fun when we’re in a pack of 4 or 5 and can own it so we feel safe. But the guy stuck behind us is gonna take it out on me when I’m alone. This is how most of our road rage horror stories probably start. Ride single file when there’s a car back and just hold whatever it is you have to say until we get to where we’re going.

North Dakotans are known for being nice; let’s keep it that way.



Herald for “bike lanes and developing mass transit”?

Tom Dennis’ editorial in the Grand Forks Herald today is about electric cars, but he slipped in a little something else:

Money spent on one thing can’t be spent on something else; and in the case of electric-car subsidies, all kinds of other choices could have been made with that money, including spending it on environmentally friendly projects such as building bike lanes and developing mass transit.

I’m not out to paint Dennis and the Herald as having been against cycling infrastructure and mass transit, but I was surprised to see these statements in a town like Grand Forks, where people have had to fight hard to get concessions for alternative transportation.  Thankfully, the Herald goes against the popular notion sometimes.

(Although I’m generally in favor of electric vehicles (where they make sense), I can see the point.  The biggest name in electrics isn’t Chevrolet and the Volt, it’s Tesla Motors and whatever Elon Musk wants to do with it.)

Encouraging cycling for transportation and improving transit in Grand Forks/East Grand Forks would take a load (literally and figuratively) off our existing infrastructure by lowering the number of vehicles that pass over a given stretch of road per day.  It would reduce congestion as well–fewer drivers means fewer cars to be stuck behind.  Cycling can be part of a healthy lifestyle, at the very least would help people get 30 minutes a day of exercise.  Transit improvements help those of us with the lowest income–to get to school, to get to work, and maybe even to sell one of the two (or more) cars your family already owns.

It’s unclear whether the powers that be would take back electric car subsidies and roll that money into more traditional alternative transportation, but you can’t start if you don’t have the idea.

Arrowhead 135 – 2014 Gear Setup and Race Recap, Part 1

This will be more gear setup than race recap, but you can’t really have one without the other.  

While reading, keep in mind that the temperature was between -25F and -15F all day, and I had a tailwind from the WNW at around 10 mph.  I was generally comfortable, and went into the race with the aim of keeping my body comfortable and not losing body parts.

Total time to checkpoint 2 and my finish (including checkpoint 1) was 14:54.



I used the cheap ($16 when my wife bought them) pogies from Amazon.  They generally work well, but I added about an inch of cotton batting (from the inside of an old pillow) on the top (ripped open a seam) for more insulation (hat tip to Ted Bibby).  I think additional insulation on the bottom would have been good to have.  Inside I wore my light-ish OR gloves, which aren’t the greatest in cold temperatures by themselves, but work for feeding, etc.  Inside of the OR gloves I wore latex gloves, which kept any sweat from my hands from evaporating or soaking the insulating layer (hat tip to Dave Sears for the suggestion).  In addition to all this I went through three pairs of chemical handwarmers.


I wore Arctic Pro Muck boots with flat pedals and Power Grips.  The Power Grips were the weak point of the system, as they had to be very large to fit over the boot.  This meant that I had to reach down and adjust one or both straps whenever I started riding.  Not a big deal if you’ve learned patience, but would be annoying if you were trying to race hard.  The straps were well worth the hassle.  Inside I wore a tall Ibex wool sock, a tall hiking sock, and used one pair of toe warmers (stuck directly beneath my toes, not back on my foot).  Feet were generally fine, and wiggling my toes worked to warm them up if they chilled.  Muck boot sizing was 1/2-size up from my regular size and they seem like a good fit with multiple socks, but not too giant.


Burton RED snowboarding helmet from several years ago.  Buff pulled over my chin to the back of my head.  ColdAvenger (regular, not balaclava).  Ski goggles.  Satisfied with everything except the fit of the helmet, which gave me a headache after a while, and the goggles began to freeze up once I turned with the tailwind at ~9 miles.  Cut a slit in the bottom of the ColdAvenger to let me stuff in food bits and drink from a straw or tube (hat tip to Ted Bibby).


UND Cycling Team bib shorts (Hincapie), Ibex windproof boxers, NewBalance running tights, North Face windpants.  On top I had a light Ibex base t-shirt, Ibex Shak jacket, and Arcteryx windproof shell.  All worked great.  I’m really happy with these clothing choices and they are good for a wide range of temperatures.


This is the big one, the one I entered the race knowing I would have to worry about the most.  I had two Ziplock bags full of PowerBar gummies, Sport Beans, mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and (in the caffienated bag) raw coffee beans.  I didn’t eat too many of the Sport Beans and none of the coffee beans because they were too small to grab easily with gloves on, and shoving the right number through my mask would have taken a while.  The other stuff was great.  Everything stayed chewable in the cold.  Extra food that I didn’t use included skinny meat sticks, my mandatory jar of peanut butter, and gas station fruit pies.

Additionally, I relied on Perpetuem powder mixed with hot tap water.  This I stored in a 40-oz Hydro Flask (widemouth) with the straw lid (I think of it as a sippy cup because it doesn’t spill).  I was concerned about even this system freezing, but it did not.  I stored the Hydro Flask upside down in an insulated Granite Gear pouch hanging off the back of my handlebars.  I think this system worked great.  Additional water was in my rear panniers, however, which meant that I did not drink nearly as much as I probably should have.  I intend to buy another Hydro Flask and straw lid just for additional water.

Bicycle/Carrying Capacity

I’ll be the first to admit that I probably brought way to much stuff to be competitive, but at least I felt like I would survive.  I had a front (old aluminum rack) and rear (old steel rack) on my steel Surly Pugsley.  I strapped my sleeping bag/bivy stuffsack to the front rack and handlebars and my sleeping pad to the reare rack.  Two moderately sized panniers hung off the rear rack.  As it happened, my extra puffy down coat was just bungeed over the top of everything in back and worked great–easy access and didn’t interfere with anything.


CygoLite MityCross headlight.  I brought two spare batteries but only needed the one.

Kodak video camera .  Kept this in my pogies, so the battery survived but I only shot a little video and took a few photos.

Bontrager wireless computer.  This didn’t work right off the bat and I never got it to function during the race.  I think the cold may have caused my issues but I’m not sure.  I did use the time function, which continued to show.

Watch alarm.  Strapped my Timex Ironman watch to the handlebars, but the cold kept the face from appearing.  Stuck it in my pogies and it survived.  Intended use was to make me eat every 30 minutes by an alarm, but I never heard it and had to rely on the computer.


I carried all the required gear for the Arrowhead, most of which I did not use.  If you have a question about what other gear I carried, please ask.


I did not train enough for this race.  I was focusing too much on logistics/setup/staying warm, and most of my training consisted of riding to work and back (5-6 miles round trip).  My longest ride before the race was at GGCOWS in early December, at 35-40 miles.  This was my own fault, and my body told me so.  My knees (which I tore up pretty badly during the 2011 Ragnarok 105) were hurting by the time I reached the first checkpoint (Gateway Store), and the hill climbing with a heavy load took more of a toll than I was ready for.  

This seems to be as good a place to stop as any.  I’ll try to write more about the race in the next week or so.


“Rules of the Road” and People on Bicycles

Motorists of Grand Forks, with all the love in the world:

If I (on a bicycle) am stopped at a stop sign with my foot down, and you are on the cross street with no stop sign, you do not need to stop and wave at me.  I can see you just fine, and I’ll go after you’re out of the intersection.  While you’re waving at me, another car is sneaking around to your right.

If I (on a bicycle) am arriving at a four-way stop and there are other cars already waiting, the other cars get to go first, because they were there first.  You do not need to wave at me, because I know how to wait in line.  You especially do not need to get all huffy when I don’t jump the queue and then stomp on the gas.

Just because I am riding near Central at 7:50 AM does not mean I’m a high school student, and especially doesn’t mean that I am completely ignorant of all traffic laws and common courtesy.  You may think you’re being nice by waving at me, but you’re really just breaking the rules of the road and holding up even more people who are trying to get somewhere.

Public Input Meeting – 42nd Street MUP


A public input meeting on a new bike and running path on Grand Forks’ South 42nd Street will be held 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday [October 15th] at Century Elementary School, the city said.  The proposed path would extend from 17th Avenue South to 24th Avenue South. City and state representatives will be available to answer questions. 
To submit written comments, send them by Oct. 30 to David Kuharenko, Engineering Department, P.O. Box 5200, Grand Forks, ND 58206 or dkuharenko@grandforksgov.com with “Public Input Meeting” in the subject heading.

I am in favor of a multi-use path if it is 1) wide enough to classify as such, and not a sidewalk, and 2) placed on the side of the road that is least likely to have additional driveways/curbcuts installed as development proceeds along this section.  I think these points are important because multi-use paths are no safer than sidewalks if there are many auto crossings.  See Idaho’s metrics as cited here:

  • >8 crossings per mile, recommend against a multipath in favor of on-street facility
  • 5-8 crossings per mile, proceed with caution and consider on-street facility
  • 1-4 crossings per mile, use special care.
Building wide sidewalks (meaning that they contain many crossings and are not designed for higher-speed bicycle use) and calling them multi-use paths may come off as an attempt to artificially inflate the number of multi-use paths in town.  I don’t think this is the case, but I would rather see on-street bicycle facilities along streets that have more driveways than the block of 42nd Street in question.