Saturday, February 7, 2009

The first commute of 2009 does not pass without incident

Friday temps were over 60 degrees.

The wife had an appointment after work, so it was definitely time to take a shot at the first commute of 2009. January weather had been dismal...lots of below zero weather and very negative windchills. I certainly couldn't pass up a nice day of riding, even if it was a workday.

Which bike? The quickie blue fixie had been sitting most of the winter and was looking like it needed a spin. I put it up on the bike stand and gave it a quick once over. I was glad I did. The front brake (the only brake) needed centering, the tires were low, and the chainring bolts were loose. I lubed up the chain as well, and we were ready to go!

I have two LED battery powered lights mounted to QBF. One light isn't enough for dark early morning commutes, but two are sufficient. I've also mounted a cheapo Pletscher rack knock off...definitely not Nitto quality but it does the job. I've also mounted Planet Bike clip on fenders, also not fancy but they keep most of the muck off my pants. All in all, the bike does a fine job for its intended purpose.

The most difficult part about bike commuting is keeping track of all my stuff. I put my toolkit and a change of clothes in my Carradice Longflap. I use a Rivendell quick release seatbag mount so I can get it on and off the bike quickly. I pack a lunch, and my lunchbag fits behind the seatbag, clamped in place with the 'spring mousetrap' provided on my Pletscher knockoff rear rack. I have to remember my wallet, keys, comb, work badge, cell phone, bike lock, etc., etc. Since it's still cold in the mornings (it was barely above freezing when I left), I wear my cold weather Adidas bike bibs with the jacket, Under Armour heat gear underneath with a base layer. Warm, thick socks are included with cold weather cycling shoes. For my head, I wear my Rivendell wool cap with a balaclava over that, and earmuffs. I can manage to fit my helmet over all those layers! I wear Pearl Izumi full fingered gloves, then pull XL leather gloves over those. For my face, I tie a bandanna around my neck and pull it over my mouth and nose.

Now with all that stuff, it's inevitable that I might forget something. However, that morning I was certain I had everything I needed with me. I get as much together as I can the night before, park my truck in the driveway and throw the bike in the back. When I get up in the morning, I dress for cycling, grab my stuff and head for the Wabash trailhead.

Absolutely no problems! I parked my truck in the trailhead parking lot, loaded the Carradice and my lunch on the bike, donned my cap, balaclava and helmet and headed for Omaha. It was a bit nippy at the start, but the sun soon peeked out and it warmed up surprisingly quickly.

About 5 miles into my trip, I had one of those 'oh shit' moments.

You know, where you suddenly realize you forgot something you really needed. Maybe several things. My first 'oh shit' moment started out with my cell phone. No big deal, I could live without that for a day. I blissfully pedaled along another mile, and the second 'oh shit' moment made me pause a bit.

Where was my bike lock and cable?

It was sitting at home, coiled up in my pile of mostly working bike parts and tools. Now, I park my bike in a bike rack in a parking garage. But I didn't really feel comfortable leaving the QBF unprotected for a day in downtown Omaha. As I pedaled along, I hatched a plan. I'd leave my bike in the rack, but I'd just remove the front wheel and take it into work with me. This would at least dissuade the casual bike criminal from just hopping on and absconding with my beloved blue fixie. If he could ride it. :>)

I arrived at work, and removed my front wheel. I don't have quick release skewers, but I do have a wrench so it wasn't a problem. Hit the work gym, showered, changed, and made it to work at a reasonable time, bike wheel in hand. The guard at the front desk was mildly amused.

As I was sitting at the desk, the boss happened by and saw the wheel. "Yes, I rode my bike in this morning, and my wheel is here because I didn't want my bike stolen", I said.

"Don't you have a lock?"
"Yeah, but I forgot it."
"You need to bring your bike in. It's going to get stolen."

Apparently, bikes have been stolen from the parking garage in the past. Now, the QBF isn't a fantastic prize but I sure wouldn't want to lose it. And if the boss says I can bring it in, why not? So I headed back out to grab my bike, wheel in hand. But first, I'd better mention this to the guard.

"Hey, I'm headed out to bring my bike in. I don't have my bike lock and my boss says my bike will get ripped off."
"Yeah, uh, you can't bring your bike in here"
"Why not?"
"Well, it's not security that will give you the problem, it's the building engineers. They won't let us bring our security bikes in here."
"My boss said it was OK, and I'm just going to be taking it up to my cube. Here's his number if you need to talk to him. I'm going to get my bike now."

I headed back to the parking garage, stuck the wheel back on and headed back to the office. As I turned the corner to head back into the tech center, I saw my boss through the glass doors, standing at the security desk, on the phone.

Another 'oh shit' moment.

What kind of trouble have I gotten my boss into? Was forgetting my bike lock a career limiting move? I envisioned a cadre of security guards escorting me and my bike from the building, tossing me out on my arse along with the contents of my cubicle, pink slip in hand.

I'm not sure who the boss was talking to (I'll assume the building engineer), but he was valiantly attempting to explain why we need to bring a bicycle into the building.

"My programmer rode his bike today and he forgot his bike lock."
"The bike will be stolen if he parks it there. He needs to bring it into the building"
"It will only be a one-time thing. I'll put the bike in my office"

After about 5 minutes of this, the guard finally let me through.

This time, I carried the entire bike into my work area instead of just the wheel. I parked it in his office while he continued to talk to the guard downstairs. I didn't see him come back in the office and we were busy, so I sent him and e-mail thanking him for going to bat for me and getting my bike into the building. No problem, he replied.

...but you need to wash your bike.

Ah, the many perils of commuting :>)


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